There are four newcomers this season to the University of Toledo women’s basketball team: Freshmen Michele Hayes, Cat Wells, and Kendyl Nunn — and sophomore Inma Zanoguera.
It is true that Zanoguera, the sixth man from a year ago, does not technically qualify as an addition, but just about everything about her has changed.
The Spaniard arrived to campus this semester with a chiseled frame, vaguely resembling the stocky forward fans saw come off the bench during her promising rookie season. Her confidence is greater, this the result of her playing a starring role in her country’s run this summer to the U-20 European title. And the cultivation of her verbal skills allows her to explain her transformations in clarity.
With the graduation of two seniors at or around her position, big things will be asked of Zanoguera once the season kicks off Nov. 4 in a home exhibition game against Wayne State.
"When you win a championship and you have that in your back pocket, I think you understand what it takes to win the next one," coach Tricia Cullop said, comparing Spain’s triumph to Toledo’s quest for a Mid-American Conference title. "That experience gave her a lot of confidence. She seems even more determined and she’s also in great shape. She’s added a lot to practice and we’re glad to have her back."
Zanoguera, although not overweight a year ago when she averaged 3.9 points and 1.1 assists, said she "dropped a couple of pounds." Fifteen, in fact, and she looks like she could compete favorably in a push-up contest against the football team.
Zanoguera is targeted to play small forward, replacing the sharp-shooting Haylie Linn. Her reduction of bulk might equate to her also getting minutes at shooting guard, a position vacated by the nation’s leading 3-point shooter, Courtney Ingersoll.
"I’m sure it’s going to help me, especially trying to play the wing more and trying to step up for Haylie and Courtney," she said.
Zanoguera did little this summer beyond playing basketball. She spent the first part of summer in her native Llucmajor working out by herself before joining her teammates for a three-week training camp. A few exhibitions preceded the main event in Hungary, in which Spain won eight of nine games in Division A, which is designated for the continent’s best teams. She contributed 10 points, six rebounds, four steals, and three assists in a 59-46 win against Russia in the gold medal game.
Her Rockets teammates watched a couple of games online and, according to point guard Naama Shafir, Zanoguera "looked great and she’s in really good shape."
"I was part of the European championship in the past, and I know what it takes to win Division A, so I respect it a lot," Shafir, of Israel, said.
Listed on the roster by her full first name of Inmaculada, Zanoguera logged 22.1 minutes per contest — fourth most on her team — and averaged 6.2 points and 5.9 rebounds.
Zanoguera’s familiarity with the English language was limited before she arrived at UT, and spending the summer speaking Spanish, she believes, has curtailed her development.
"I have to think about every single word I say," she said. "It definitely doesn’t come easy or automatic."
In truth, she’s being self conscious. Her vocabulary, just like her game and her physique, is better.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: email@example.com, 419-724-6160 or onTwitter @AutulloBlade.