Home court advantage

Don't get Marquette women's basketball coaches and players wrong — they enjoyed their time at Marquette Gym, more commonly referred to as the Old Gym.

No other athletic facility on campus can match the gym's history, tradition and mystique. However, it became hard to sell intangibles to prospective basketball recruits when a number of other programs played and practiced in newer and plusher venues.

"I can think of players in the past who liked all parts of our school, but they'd go to a Big Ten school with a better playing facility — it was a turning point," said assistant coach Michelle Nason.

Construction of the Al McGuire Center has changed that.

"We've had more unofficial visits this year than we've had in a while," Nason said. "The excitement generated by the building is going to be more of a recruiting issue. (Recruits) will walk in and say, 'Holy cow! This building is great.'"

Another advantage of the venue is the team is able to practice and play home games on the same court.

In previous years the Golden Eagles called U.S. Cellular Arena, the Bradley Center and Wisconsin Lutheran Field House home at one time or another because the Marquette Gym wasn't large enough to play games in.

"We had a home court, but technically not a home court," senior guard Katie O'Grady said. "We were picked up to go somewhere. It's not the same to practice and play on different courts.

"Now you get used to the rim and there's familiarity come game time. There's consistency because you've been on the court all week."

An additional advantage of playing and practicing on the same court is the players can adjust to the area behind the basket. It's difficult to develop good depth perception when a shooter is constantly seeing a different background, Nason said.

Having a 4,000-seat home arena isn't the only part of the Al McGuire Center players and coaches appreciate.

"I really like our locker room because we have our own showers, we have our computer in there, there's a TV, couches and a microwave," O'Grady said. "It's convenient and nice. It's a second home during the season."

"Our offices were downstairs in the Old Gym," Nason said. "We have windows now. I also shared an office with (special assistant) Rashida (Gales). With the new facility I have (my own) office."

In addition to locker rooms and coaches' offices, the women's basketball program utilizes the Al McGuire Center's strength and conditioning center, sports medicine facility and study areas.

"It's really convenient to have everything in the same spot," O'Grady said. "We're always under a time crunch. We might have something in the weight room then we run to class and then back to the Al. We have everything at our fingertips there."