Senior guard Mariah Ruff has seen a lot in her previous three years, and in her final chapter she sees another plot twist.
“This year I feel like everyone is on the same page and we are going to shock a lot of people with where we place” Ruff said.
Ruff had her best season last year averaging 14 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists, but she knows every year you have to “walk in with a chip on your shoulder and prove the league wrong”.
Coach Jesse Fleming has “a special connection to Mariah”. They both grew up in Oneonta, New York on a dairy farm and for Ruff that relate-ability helped her build trust in the second-year coach.
“We both can connect on a personal level which is good”, Ruff said.
Ruff has been the exact player coach Jesse Fleming looks for.
“I’m so lucky to have her and inherit someone like her, just a tough kid”, Fleming said. “She’s exactly the kind of kid that you would want to start a program.”
Even after a career best year Fleming mentioned that Ruff hasn’t stopped grinding.
“She still works on her game like crazy”. Fleming said “She just wants this to be a special year for her, and I hope we can help give her that.”
Ruff says she has specifically worked on her “mid-range game and overall shooting.”
“It was pretty strong before, but I didn’t take very many shots during the season,” she said.
Being the only senior, there can be added leadership pressure, but not for Ruff.
“The whole team is really connected,” she said. “We all feed off each other, they pretty much know what they’re doing. I really don’t have to do much besides show up and maybe one or two times show a teaching point.”
Ruff may have gotten some of her ability to fill stat sheets from modeling her game after Lebron James.
“He can play all positions and does whatever his team needs him to do,” she said.
Despite the Bonnies being projected 12th in the conference, Ruff, an Atlantic-10 Preseason All-Conference second team recipient, wants the team to have the mentality of the 2015-2016 NCAA tournament Bonnies, who were projected 9th that year.
“We always walked into every place knowing we were going to win,” Ruff said. “There was no we might, or, we shouldn’t be here”. Ruff continued, “we should at the end of the game be on top of the score. We are good enough, we just need to prove it.”