With the start of college basketball, the Spartans are a step beyond promise and potential with more talent and the vibrant basketball minds to lead the way.
Head coach Tim Miles starting year three is now into the highly competitive phase of his program and women’s head coach April Phillips began year-two Wednesday night in an exhibition game against a feisty CSU Monterey team.
The lady Spartans showed loose ends and nerves to maturity and confidence, while eventually cruising to a 75-56 win with Phillips utilizing her entire bench.
“Exhibitions are typically your first tests and assessments of where we are,” said Phillips. “It gives our players the opportunity to get the jitters out and it gives us film to go back to watch and study.”
Early on, CSUMB’s quickness and three-point shooting won the first quarter forcing 22 turnovers overall on the Spartans until SJS’ size, depth and speed overwhelmed the Otters.
Just a year ago
Two years ago, the Spartans were 5-25 and wallowed in obscurity for a decade, except for a third place finish in the 2019 season.
Last year saw only a 6-25 finish under Phillips, but a tectonic shift in culture and purpose was evident.
Phillips exudes a past, present and future of San Jose State beyond athletics.
“Anytime you have a PWI university that has minorities in high places, it creates a very welcoming place for someone like me,” said Phillips. “When I got here and got the job, there were people popping out of the woodworks who I didn’t know existed to show me support.”
There are not many who exemplify what Phillips is about in terms of sports and as a person. Phillips looks to fit seamlessly alongside the legacy of the long-standing social activism and civil rights of SJSU’s history.
In the light of Dr. Harry Edwards, Tommie Smith and John Carlos - Phillips has that same powerful persona and background of hard work and leadership.
“It is important to a black female head coach to know that you have this support, because there’s not many of us,” said Phillips. “Because our community understands the need for us to succeed and the campus community has been so welcoming.”
In terms of black women head coaches, Phillips added, “I think it’s me and Charmin Smith (Cal) and that’s it. Not too many more of us down south either and the west coast.”
Phillips grew up in Southern California, playing collegiate basketball at Georgia Tech for one year before transferring to Xavier for the next three years. Phillips also played professionally overseas.
Phillips’ coaching contributions and trajectory has taken her from Loyola Marymount, Arizona, Cal and Texas, before landing with San Jose State.
Asked where she feels her journey is currently, Phillips was quick to assess and appreciate the here and now.
“She’s very caring, passionate and personable on and off the court,” said sophomore guard Sabrina Ma. “No matter what happens on the court, she’ll love you off the court. She has an authentic relationship with us.”
Phillips added, “I don’t get mad over a mistake, as I do with a lack of effort in the midst of a mistake. I want our identity to be of a team that never gives up and you don’t quit.”
Phillips mantra of strength and toughness is the first layer you see and feel from a distance until you meet Phillips eye-to-eye. The inner persona that players and the media talk about is clearly evident. It pulls you in.
“My identity and the team’s identity comes from how I was raised and how I live,” said Phillips. “You don’t give up and you give everything that you have, while you have the opportunity. That’s what we’re trying to build up on.”
A strong identity and clear expectations are the baseline for Phillips’ program in year two. The message of resilience, toughness and work ethic at its core.
“I want this program to be whatever it is God wants it to be,” said Phillips. “I pray every day to let it be his way.”
Faith and love goes without saying.
MW tourney beat #7 AF