Aarika Hughes’ WCC Preview

Aarika Hughes’ first year as head coach of LMU women’s basketball, in 2021–22, was deceptively successful. The team finished 11–19, but its West Coast Conference tournament play stood out: a force-the-action style and defensive execution that resulted in two dominating tourney wins.

After a year to observe, Hughes says the WCC features “high-quality basketball” characterized by versatility, skill and conditioning.

“You’re going to see a lot more focus on the defensive side, which should put us in transition situations where we can be electric,” Hughes says.

“Everyone in our conference is in shape,” she says. “Everybody is trying to speed the game up.”

Hughes saw three styles of WCC play at work last season. “First,” she said, “teams with a spread offense and hybrid players who can play multiple positions; second, teams with height that try to get the ball inside and utilize their size; and, third, the rest with a high-pace, physical style.”

Hughes says no WCC team can hope to win without shooting, from the 3-point line to finishing at the rim; playmaking from their guards; and conditioning, and those will be LMU’s priorities, too.

In her first year, Hughes emphasized setting the program’s foundation and establishing expectations. This year, she says, will focus more on execution and playing at pace.

“You’re going to see our identity not just in two games of the conference tournament,” Hughes explains. “You’re going to see a lot more focus on the defensive side, which should put us in transition situations where we can be electric. That’s the way that we want to play — fast-paced, fun to watch and entertaining.”

Coach Aarika Hughes talked at length about her team’s prospects in the 2022–23 season and about the state of women’s college basketball in an episode of LMU Magazine’s Off Press podcast.