Freshman Fuehring's role grows for Cards women
On Sam Fuehring's way into the interview room Thursday night after logging a season-high 29 minutes, coach Jeff Walz stopped the freshman forward and offered this advice: "You need to get stronger, because they're pushing you around."
Fuehring said little else to reporters after the best college game of her young career, still a bit intimidated by that stage. But the former four-star recruit handled an increased role on the court this week with relative ease.
Fuehring came off the bench to score six points last Monday at Syracuse and then added 12 more in her first Atlantic Coast Conference start Thursday versus Clemson, the increased playing time because star Myisha Hines-Allen missed a game. Hines-Allen will return Sunday – she was back home due to a death in the family – but Walz still anticipates Fuehring will play 10-12 minutes when the Cardinals host Wake Forest at 1 p.m. Sunday.
It's a small role for a former McDonald's All American, but it's a sign that she's responding after a rocky start to the season.
"She's as good of an 8- to 12-foot shooter as we have on the team," Walz said. "She loves the shot from the baseline, from the elbow. It gives us another scoring option. I've just got to get her to continue to work defensively.
"That's where her strength – or lack there of – gets exposed, because she's got to guard a four. Every once in a while when we switch, she's got to guard a five and gets pushed around."
Fuehring didn't appear at all earlier this month in back-to-back games against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. It wasn't necessarily Walz's plan to play her more, either, until the New Jersey native hopped off the bench to hit a trio of shots in the first half at Syracuse. The coach was pleased as well when Fuehring went 4-of-5 from the free throw line – "an area she's obviously been struggling in" – versus Clemson.
Fuehring's strength is in her jumper. She can catch and shoot, or create with a spin move in the post. At 6-foot-3, getting open is a matter of elevating.
"I'm confident," Fuehring said. "If I wasn't confident, I wouldn't take the shot."
In other areas of her game, Fuehring is hearing plenty from Walz on how to improve.
The coach said Thursday as U of L extended its winning streak to 13 games, all after a 1-4 start, that he blames himself a bit for how the Cardinals opened the season. With five freshmen on the roster, Walz, who doesn't tend to let his players get comfortable, showed some patience.
"I should have demanded it be done right," he said. "Instead, I tried to coach them, say, 'You've got to do this,' and then they'd make the same mistake. I put that back on me. That's my fault, because in today's day and age, you just have to tell them that this is how it's going to be.
"That's tough for some of them, because they've never been told they aren't the best player on the floor."
The message got through to Fuehring, who repeated her need to improve ball handling and build strength.
"Hopefully," Walz said of her playing time, "she can continue to earn more."