By Derek Smolik, Sports Information Director

The Rattlers opened the 2006-07 women’s basketball season last Friday when they hosted the Lady Rattler Opening Classic Tournament at Bill Greehey Arena. With the start of the season we sat down with new head coach Jason Martens.

Martens is entering his first season as head women’s basketball coach after serving as assistant coach the last two years. He was on the staff of the 2005-06 team that won the Heartland Conference Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Division II Regional Tournament.

Martens has helped the program produce 46 wins, a Heartland Conference Championship and a berth into the NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. Nine Rattlers have been named All-Heartland Conference over the last three seasons. Martens oversaw recruiting, assisted with scheduling and assisted with scouting under former coach Paige Clawson, who resigned recently to join the United States Secret Service.

Prior to his arrival in San Antonio, Martens served as assistant women’s basketball coach at Lamar University in Beaumont for two seasons. He also was an assistant men’s basketball coach at Bethel College in North Newton, Kan., for two years.
Martens graduated from Bethel College in 2000 with two bachelor of science degrees, one in business administration and one in accounting. He received his masters of public administration degree from Lamar University in 2003. As an athlete he earned all-conference and academic all-conference honors in football at BC. He also competed in basketball and track and field at the school. Before transferring to Bethel, he was a junior college All-American in track and field at Hutchison (Kan.) Community College.

Martens is married to the former DonLouise Meyer and they have a one-year old, Jaden.

Did you have anyone stand out in particular during preseason practice?
“My two seniors have done really well. Charlena (Rodez) been great in practice. Dawn Killian has had a couple of really good scrimmages already and were looking forward to that senior leadership this year.”

Talk about the one thing everyone seems to want to mention. You have a lot of good guards, but not as much height as you might like. How are you going to work around your lack of depth in the post?
“Basically we’ve told our girls is that we are undersized, but we’re just going to have to work extra hard on the little things to combat that. We can’t afford to make many mistakes, so we’re going to have to take care of the ball, limit the number of turnovers we have and limit the number of offensive rebounds we give up.”

“Our guard play is going to be solid. We may not have much depth at the post, but we have three very solid post players.”

You have a lot of upperclassmen on the team. With you being new as a head coach and with you implementing a new system, it has to be a good thing to have that kind of senior leadership on the team?
“Yeah it is. Our seniors have been through the battles, been to the NCAA Tournament, they know what to expect. But on the other side of things, with a new coach we have 11 new players because they have to learn the new system, learn my coaching style, so we have experience back on paper, but in regards to our system, everybody is starting from scratch.”

It’s your first year as coach. Everyone has high expectations, but obviously there’s high expectations coming in because the team went to the NCAA Tournament last year and the core of those players are back. How does that affect things?
“St. Mary’s has such a proud tradition of athletic excellence. They want us to be successful and I do too of course. That’s been the goal since day one, to win the conference championship again. We won the title last year, so its our title to defend. That’s our expectation every time we step on the court. We want to prove that we are conference champs.”

You have a very challenging schedule, especially in the early going. How comfortable are you with your early season schedule, and the overall strength of your schedule?
“(laughing as he answers) Scared to death! No, it’s very challenging schedule. We play Central Missouri, who went to the NCAA Regionals and (Texas A&M) Commerce, who didn’t make it to the regionals, but is one of the top teams in the Lone Star heading into this year. We also play Southeastern, who will be very good, Abilene (Christian) who is always very good, Angelo State, who is always tough and Texas A&M-Kingsville, who beat us last year. Then you add Northeastern Oklahoma right before Christmas, as well as Northwest Missouri State and Missouri Western, who will both be good as well. We definitely could have given ourselves an easier schedule to start the year, but it will be a good challenge for the team.”

You have a lot of home games this season, starting with four in a row to open the season. How much will that help you?
“Any time you get a chance to play at home it’s a good thing. Hopefully we’ll have some good crowds, supporting our girls and give us that extra boost we need to get over the top.”

How do you see the Heartland Conference shaping up this year?
“It’s wide open. Montana State-Billings lost four starters from last year’s regular season champions, but they also return an all-conference player and a freshman of the year, so they are very talented still. (Oklahoma) Panhandle State has a whole new roster, with only two new players back, so they are a bit of an unknown. It’s the same with St. Edward’s, who has a whole new roster. There was a lot of turnover in our conference this year. Nobody knows what anyone has right now.”

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