During her four years on the Fresno State women’s basketball team, Alex Sheedy has played for three different coaches.
Without any prompting, the senior forward majoring in mass communication and journalism will tell you which ranks atop her list.
It’s the one who has the current Bulldogs off to an 11-3 start and 3-0 in the Mountain West Conference: first-year coach Jaime White.
“I would say she’s been the best one so far,” Sheedy said following a recent practice. “Coach White and her staff have brought in such great philosophies and they’re different to what we’ve had in the past. We’ve had a different kind of feel this year.”
Never miss a local story.
Fifth-year senior Alex Furr is a health science major. But she made her view clear, too.
“I’ve had three different coaches, but if I would’ve had (White) for my entire career I’d have been a very happy player,” Furr said.
What about White makes Furr feel this way?
“She’s just a great lady,” Furr replied. “She’s not just worried about us being basketball players. She wants us to be the best students and the best people we can be, and she’s always there for us.
“I know if I had something go wrong in the middle of the night I could call her and she’d help me.”
Considering White has been coaching at Fresno State for less than nine months, that’s pretty remarkable.
It also helps explain why the women’s basketball team, despite another coaching change and roster turnover, keeps racking up wins. The Bulldogs are seeking their eighth in a row Saturday at home against Nevada.
Not bad for a team picked to finish fourth in the Mountain West after losing two-year coach Raegan Pebley to TCU and all-conference players Taylor Thompson and Bree Farley to graduation.
“Everything has been wonderful so far,” White said. “I feel good about our record. We’ve had some ups and downs within games, but we’ve been able to fight through most of the downs.”
White and her staff have leaned on Sheedy’s talents while also asking the 6-foot-1 Australian to take on a larger leadership role. They redesigned the offense into a three-wing, two-post set designed to get the ball into the hands of the skilled forward as much as possible.
As a result, Sheedy’s scoring average is up (from 12.7 to 17.5 points) and she’s shooting a career-high 42.9% from the field.
“It’s nice to have a player who’s capable of taking over a game,” White said.
Defensively, the Bulldogs are employing more ball pressure. Senior Raven Fox is a tireless perimeter defender, and Shauqunna Collins and Stephanie Rovetti (transfers White brought in) have provided depth at point guard.
Fresno State has also benefited from the development of seniors Robin Draper and Furr, who has endured two major knee injuries during her career, and the emergence of 6-3 redshirt freshman Bego Faz Davalos, the team leader in rebounds (7.7) and blocks (2.6).
“I would also say we’re in a lot better shape than we’ve ever been,” Furr said. “We run a lot in practice — and we hate it — but during the game, in the fourth quarter, you love her for it.”
That the Bulldogs players have taken so quickly to their new coach was good news to director of operations Tom Perkins.
Perkins has known White longer than anyone in the 559 area code, having coached her for two years at Utah Valley Community College. Twenty-five years later, and after a season together at Northern Colorado, they’ve reunited at Fresno State.
“Jaime has a great fiery personality — she’s positive and gets along with people,” Perkins said. “She also has a tremendous passion for basketball.
“She watches more film than any other coach I’ve ever seen. She just loves to analyze and set up her game plan. She’s very structured, very organized, very passionate — all those traits that make you a winner.”
White typically maintains a calm demeanor in practice and games. But when Collins committed a silly turnover during the final minute against New Mexico, White stormed onto the court, grabbed her player by the arm and gave her a look that could’ve melted glaciers.
“She lets us know when she’s not happy,” Sheedy said.
The Bulldogs have yet to face any of the teams picked ahead of them in the MW race (Colorado State, Boise State and Wyoming), but a tough nonconference schedule has them feeling prepared for anything. (It also gave them a lofty RPI of 31, which could help come March. Boise State is the second-highest MW team at 90.)
Let’s not forget this is a program that has made seven consecutive trips to the Women’s NCAA Tournament. It’s getting easier to picture No. 8, new coach and all.
“I can’t even imagine the pressure (White) must’ve felt coming here from Northern Colorado because this has been such a successful program,” Furr said. “But she’s done a great job, and I love playing for her.”