There was Natalia Isaac, sitting and watching a basketball game.
Last season she had to watch basketball games all the time while not playing. Isaac, a senior guard on the Temple women’s basketball team, played in 19 games last season, starting two. For nine games, Isaac was out and forced to watch the game from the sidelines.
Isaac had a dispute with then coach Kristen Foley who sat her for a few games. It was tough for Isaac, especially mentally.
“I wasn’t focused,” Isaac said. “I wasn’t happy and I’m just glad that this year is here…changes, changing of the guard, that’s what they call us.”
“Changing of the guard” is the motto of this year’s team as new coach Dawn Staley takes over. Staley, a point guard by position in her career, brings a lot to the team and to Isaac.
This time when Isaac was forced to sit it was to watch a men’s game and she was sitting next to Staley, rather than by herself.
“I think she’s the most athletic on our team,” Staley said. “I don’t know if she realizes the potential that she has. Once she realizes that, she’s going to be a much better basketball player.”
When Staley took over, she wiped the slate clean. All that happened in the past is in the past. Now Isaac, and the team, can look to the future.
“It’s good to have a clean slate,” Isaac said. “I’m just trying to play, redeem myself from last year and help the team do a lot better than we did last year.”
Temple finished last season at 10-18 and lost in the first round of the Atlantic-10 tournament. Isaac averaged 5.1 points and 17 minutes a game. But down the stretch, when the team could have used her leadership, she was forced to watch.
“I think she struggles mentally at times, that is going to be her nemesis all year,” Staley said. “That’s going to be the milestone for her to get to a point where she’s comfortable and she can approach the game and just be fine and be confident in her skills.”
In the first game of the season, an exhibition win over the Asker Lady Aliens, Isaac was back in form.
She scored eleven points and led the team in assists with seven. At the 12:56 mark she hit a big three-pointer that gave Temple a 17-8 lead. Two minutes later, she banged in another to up the score to 24-8.
“We didn’t score that many points last year as a team,” Isaac said. “That’s one of my roles. I have to keep my head and get everybody to keep their heads, that’s pretty much my role.”
Isaac added another score on a lay up after stealing the ball from Asker. All game long she was one of the most exciting players to watch. It was a far cry from last season when she was the one watching.
“I had to reflect on what happened and I have to look to the future,” Isaac said. “I’m a senior, I’m not trying to go out he way I did last year. I’m just blessed to have this season.”
Staley and her coaching staff are trying to make sure that what happened last year will not happen again.
“I think Natalia has been a roller coaster up and down,” Staley said. “I think she thinks too much out there. With the type of system that we have, you don’t think, you just play and you react to things. Now she’s finally feeling that she can do those things.”
Isaac contributing to the team will be nothing but positive for a group trying to rise to the top. Isaac’s leadership and scoring touch can come in handy, but only if she’s on the floor.
“I think we have to keep giving her positive reinforcement and just be positive with her,” Staley said. “She’s her worst critic, she gets on herself more than any coach can. So we just kinda have to (use) reverse psychology and keep feeding her positives.”
Temple opens the regular season against Lehigh tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at the Liacouras Center.