Missouri’s diverse leadership styles further success

Robin Pingeton: “The key is recruiting the right kind of kids that have great leadership skills and are truly invested in what we’re trying to get done as a program.”
Missouri Tigers women’s basketball players Michelle Hudyn (12), Lindsey Cunningham (11) and Maddie Stock (10) pose for a portrait Oct. 21, 2015, at Mizzou Arena. The three players were recently named team captains.

Last Tuesday, the Missouri women’s basketball team got together to vote on captains. But this wasn’t your typical election.

After the votes were cast, the players decided on something: It doesn’t matter who is named captain.

“We all have this different type of leadership, which I think it’s a good thing,” junior guard Lindsey Cunningham said. “Whether you have that title or not, you’re expected to lead in your own specific way. You’ve got your leaders through voice that pump you up, you’ve got your leaders that use their voice to pump you up, you’ve got your leaders that lead through example, and I think everyone has their own different type of leadership on our team, but every single one’s important. We have to make sure that we utilize all those different types of leadership.”

Last year, guard Morgan Eye stuck out as the Tigers’ head honcho. Now that Eye’s in the graduate assistant position, the court’s leadership has shifted.

With the best recruiting class in program history, Missouri possesses plenty of promising youth coupled with plenty of experience.

You’ve got your auspicious big three — just out of their salad days — in guard Sophie Cunningham, and forwards Cierra Porter and Hannah Schuchts.

You’ve got the impressive inbetweeners in sophomore forwards Bri Porter and Kayla McDowell, along with juniors Jordan Frericks and Sierra Michaelis.

You’ve got your wise veterans in senior guards Morgan and Maddie Stock and forward Michelle Hudyn, paired with redshirt junior guards Lindsey Cunningham and Lianna Doty.

This team might be diverse in age and leadership, but don’t let that fool you. When it comes to unity, this team is on the same page.

“The key is recruiting the right kind of kids that have great leadership skills and are truly invested in what we’re trying to get done as a program,” coach Robin Pingeton said. “When you can get that to happen in the locker room before they even step out on the court, you’ve got something special. And we talk about it a lot, we challenge them a lot, but honestly, I gotta give the kids credit. They understand where we’re trying to go with this program, they understand the work ethic it takes, the attention to detail.”

The Tigers were selected to finish seventh in the Southeastern Conference in the media preseason poll, the highest ranking for the program since Missouri joined the league.

Two weeks into practice, Pingeton and her players are optimistic.

“This is the first time I’ve been on a team where, across the board, I feel like any five could get on the court and play well together and dominate,” Bri Porter said.

Off the court, the 14 athletes have an opportunity to dominate as well.

Around Columbia and through the World Wide Web, signs advertising this Tigers squad have run rampant.

The slogan on most of these promotions — “Our Town, Our Team” — is not to be taken lightly.

“We want to make this community proud,” Pingeton said. “(We want our players) to really embrace the opportunity that they have as role models for the younger kids in this community and to be great ambassadors for this university on the court … and off the court. Really, just trying to unite with the community and make them proud.

“We’ve laid that foundation — we’ve got kids in the locker room that have been through the trenches. They’ve had some success, they’ve had some challenging times. But so much of their hard work happened before they even took a step on the court, and they’ve done a great job of that.”

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