Christina Rozier doesn’t expect to be in the starting lineup when her University of Washington women’s basketball team plays Arizona State tonight.
But just in case she is, Rozier vows to be ready this time.
“I definitely won’t come out with a worse 20 minutes than I did against Wazzu last week,” she said, referring to the forgettable first half Rozier played after being an 11th-hour replacement for Kristi Kingma in last Friday’s game at Washington State. “And if Kristi is back, and I’m on the bench, that’s fine too. Either way it works, I’ll be ready.”
Rozier found out just hours before tip-off that Kingma would not be available for the WSU game because of a concussion. Rozier made her first start of the season and turned in one of the worst halves of her life.
But she recovered at halftime and helped the Huskies knock off their rival in overtime.
“I knew I had a bad first half, and I just kept telling myself: ‘My team needs me,’” said Rozier, who had eight points, nine rebounds and the victory-clinching basket in overtime in the 76-70 win. “I kept talking to myself like, ‘God, get me through this.’ And I kept playing. Even though my shot wasn’t falling, I had to stay positive within myself.”
Rozier has had to stay positive for most of this season. After starting the final 15 games of the 2008-09 season, she’s been pushed into a reserve role in her senior year.
The adjustment took a little time, but as of late Rozier has been thriving in her new role coming off the bench.
“She’s buying into that Venoy Overton role of really being that sixth starter,” UW head coach Tia Jackson said in reference to the star sub for the Huskies men’s team. “She’s immediately off the bench, plays anywhere from 18 to 22 minutes for us — sometimes more than that. She’s good energy.
“She’s finding her niche out there. She was a starter last year, and she’s kind of buying into that (backup) role.”
Over the past four games, Rozier has averaged 8.5 points — 4.8 above her mark through the first 14 games of the season. She’s scored eight or more points in three of the past four games, despite coming off the bench in all but one of them.
“I feel much more confident in myself and my teammates,” said Rozier, who hails from Miami. “I feel like my performance has risen every time I’ve stepped onto the court.”
Last Friday, she stepped onto the court as a starter. It’s a role Rozier enjoyed much of her junior season, but one that has been manned by junior point guard Sarah Morton in every game this year. Rozier said she doesn’t mind coming off the bench, if that’s what the team needs.
“It’s not hard at all,” she said. “It’s always been my mindset that if I ever in my life came off the bench, I would still feel like a starter. When I’m on the court, I’m still helping my team out. It’s all good, no worries.”
Rozier likely will be back on the bench when the Huskies play Pac-10 games at Arizona State tonight and at Arizona on Saturday. Kingma, who missed last week’s game after suffering a mild concussion six days earlier, resumed practicing this week and is expected to be in the starting lineup for both games.
But Rozier isn’t complaining. Whatever the role, she’ll be ready.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been a (full-time) starter,” she said. “But whether I start or come off the bench, it doesn’t affect how I play.”