2019-2020 URI Women’s Basketball Team. Photo taken from gorhody.com.

For first year-head coach Tammi Reiss, it’s all about the culture.

That is the theme for this upcoming season of University of Rhode Island women’s basketball, as Reiss and a new coaching staff look to make their mark in their first season in Kingston.

Reiss was hired last April after a long coaching search, replacing Daynia La-Force, who went 46-102 during her five years in charge. The new coach comes from Syracuse, where she spent four years as an assistant coach, including when the team made the Final Four in 2016. Reiss said she took the job because of the people at the URI, specifically Athletic Director Thorr Bjorn. 

According to the new coach, wins are not the primary thing that needs to change for the program. 

“I was focused right from the jump on the process and all the little things,” she said. “We have to lay the foundation on the court. Do we work hard? Are we giving 100 percent effort? Do we communicate? All those little things.” 

Reiss also mentioned the off the court culture that needed changing, including being more involved in the community. 

The former point guard at Virginia and in the WNBA brings a coaching staff varying in experience alongside her. Megan Shoniker, an assistant coach that has been coaching across New York since 2012, graduated from URI in 2011. Assistant Coach Sharnee Zoll-Norman recently retired from playing professionally and has experience playing in the WNBA. 

Associate Head Coach Adeniyi Amadou was perhaps the biggest get on the staff. Amadou, who also served as an assistant coach at Syracuse, has a wide scouting network overseas, a market the team has already tapped into. Among six potential newcomers to the roster, Marie-Paule Foppossi and Haby Niang come from France, and sophomore guard Veronika Vorackova hails from the Czech Republic and is a transfer from Syracuse. 

Reiss looks to implement her style early on in Kingston. She said the team will be looking to run, and avoid playing in the half-court on offense as much as possible. As for the defense, she said to expect a scheme that relies on man-to-man defense. She also believes in being a player-friendly coach, something that she relished when she used to play. 

“I’ve learned from playing this game at both levels that I love players who are player-coaches,” she said. “Coaches that cared about me and that put me first. Not about the program, not about wins and losses, but the student athlete first.” 

Reiss’ first roster still has plenty of talent. Redshirt Senior Davida Dale led the team in assists last year, and will look to lead from the point guard position.  Senior Center Nicole Jorgensen also returns, with potential abounding.

“Nicole has the talent to be the best post player in the league,” she said. “We’re trying to teach her all the intangibles that come with being the best player in the league. Talent doesn’t get you to that point.”

Like the men’s team and other programs across the country, the team is still waiting for players to get waivers from the NCAA to be eligible to play. According to Reiss, Varackova, Foppossi and Niang are all still waiting to get cleared to play. There is no timetable on when those waivers will be decided upon. Emmanuelle Tahane, a transfer from Missouri, is expected to sit out the season while learning the shooting guard and small forward positions. 

The Rams begin their season on Nov. 7 when they take on Long Island University at the Ryan Center.