State of Sports: New hoops coach Shoniker likes the UNH vibe

May 3—THE University of New Hampshire held an introductory news conference for incoming women's basketball coach Megan Shoniker on Thursday. For those who have never seen or attended one of these news conferences, it's basically school administrators raving about the new head coach and the coach raving about the school. Everything is extremely positive. It's the honeymoon period, after all.

Given the choice, most sportswriters would prefer to skip the preamble and fast-forward to the Q-and-A part of press conferences like these, but Mike Murphy, UNH's assistant athletic director for marketing and communications (previously known as the school's SID), revealed this interesting nugget about Shoniker early on in Thursday's proceedings: Shoniker once attempted 38 shots in a game during her playing career at the University of Rhode Island.

The 38 shots remain a URI record for attempted field goals in a game. Also noteworthy is the fact that she attempted those 38 shots — 11 of 38 for 29 points, by the way — in a triple-overtime loss to UNH at Lundholm Gymnasium in 2011. She was 1 of 8 on 3-point field goals.

"I want to thank you for breaking the ice for me with the 38 field goals attempted," Shoniker said when she stepped to the podium. "You got me off to a good start. My players, I hope you get absolutely no ideas from that. Please do as I say, not as I do."

Shoniker became the program's eighth coach when she was hired on April 24. She spent the last five years as an assistant coach at URI, including the last two as the program's associate head coach.

Shoniker is a Rochester, New York, native, who also worked as an assistant coach at St. John Fisher College, Canisius and Binghamton. She played at URI from 2007 to 2011, and then played professionally in Belarus.

Here are some of the questions she fielded Thursday:

Question: What was attractive about the UNH job?

Shoniker: Coaching for the past several years in the New England area, I believe we have all of the aspects to offer student/athletes. ... The academics here speak for themselves. When you walk on campus, it's beautiful. There's an energy. There's a vibe here that I think young people really enjoy. And then the America East Conference is an extremely competitive conference and so when we're talking to young people and recruiting young people there's not really a box that goes unchecked when we're talking about UNH. I believe that we can get really talented, young people here who are dedicated to the court and the classroom. That's the ultimate goal, right? Get the best talent through the doors and go win some basketball games. I believe we can do that here.

Question: How would you describe your coaching style?

Shoniker: I'm extremely passionate. I'm energetic. I'm competitive, but I'm also extremely positive. My whole goal with these young women is to inspire them and motivate them. Put them in the best possible position to be successful, not just on the court but in life as young people. I'm going to push them. I'm going to hold them accountable, but I'm always going to do it in a positive way, an uplifting way. Really instilling a belief in them that they can do anything, and then help build that confidence. There's going to be a lot of energy. ... I'm a big believer in motivating and inspiring."

Question: Are you locked into a style of play, or will that style be based more on your personnel?

Shoniker: So overall I want to be able to play fast. I want to be able to play in transition, and I want to get the best shot for our team within six to eight seconds. With that being said, I'm a big believer in utilizing their strengths in finding a system that fits them the best, because I believe that's how we're going to be successful. That's how we're going to grow this thing. ... Obviously I've watched a lot of film, but film doesn't always tell the whole story, so we're going to take this summer and continue to evaluate. I think by the end of the summer we'll have a quote-unquote system. They know and they can probably tell you that we're going to play fast with pace. That's going to be the biggest area we're going to address over these next couple weeks.

Question: Your thoughts on the transfer portal?

Shoniker: "I think the transfer portal has been a beneficial part of our game. I always believe in second chances and sometimes when a young person is making a decision, maybe they make the decision based on reasons that aren't aligned with them, or a coaching change. So I think it's a good thing. We'll look to add to our roster, but the most important part of adding is making sure you get the right fit, the right people. That's got to be our foundation is our culture and our character. So we will certainly look to do that and hopefully have some new additions here in the next couple weeks.

Question: When did you know you wanted to be a coach?

Shoniker: Probably when I could say the word coach. (With) my entire family I've been surrounded by educators and coaches. My father coached me until he couldn't any more because I wouldn't listen to him. It was really probably the end of my high school into my collegiate career, because when I looked around at people outside of my immediate family who impacted me the most, it was always coaches, and obviously some teachers as well. I really wanted to give back. I really wanted to be that positive impact and that positive person for young people, and I love the game of basketball.

I couldn't imagine my life without it, so it was pretty young when I kind of set my mind to it. If coaching didn't work out, it was going to be teaching. For me, coaching and teaching are two of the same.