When it comes to dealing with his players, Winthrop coach Bud Childers has always been known as a tell-it-like-it-is, straight-shooting, forget-the-sugar-coating kind of guy.
So it was only natural that's the way Childers approached the situation when he talked to point guard Yvonne van Daalen about her importance to the Eagles.
Childers told the 5-foot-9 native of Rotterdam, Netherlands, that the success of the team this season depended on her play and on-court leadership. The only question remaining after their conservation was how the junior would respond to the challenge.
It's the same speech Childers heard during his playing days, and one he's shared with every point guard he's coached. Coaches at every level have shared the same thoughts over the years. It comes with the territory because the one-guard runs the show.
"Playing point guard isn't fair," Childers said just before heading out for today's matchup at George Mason. "I know, because that's what I played. Point guards are the players who have to pull everything together.
"Point guards shoulder all the responsibility of running the team and take most of the blame when things don't go well."
So far, van Daalen's been up to the challenge.
The junior psychology major has played a vital role in Winthrop's 8-4 start, the best since the Eagles started competing in NCAA Division I. She's started all 12 games and averages 32 minutes, 5.6 points and 4.7 rebounds.
Mainly, van Daalen's doing the little things she didn't do last season when the Eagles struggled to a 6-26 record.
"I'm a lot more comfortable this year, and I think the other players are more comfortable with me," van Daalen, one of Winthrop's three captains, said after a vigorous practice. "My job is to run our system, distribute the basketball and get all the players involved.
"We're all on the same page this year. There were times last year when it felt like we were all going in different directions. We know how it feels to struggle, and we don't like it. This year, we're all dedicated -- I know I am -- to playing together. When we do that, we're a good basketball team."
Winthrop's start proves it.
The Eagles have six non-conference games -- three on the road, starting at 1:30 p.m. today in Fairfax, Va., and three at home -- before beginning Big South Conference play at High Point on Jan. 23. The Eagles will be favored in all three home games, against Converse, USC Upstate and Presbyterian.
That means no matter what happens against the Patriots, Charlotte or Longwood, Winthrop should reach double-digit wins for only the ninth time since the 1985-86 season, which also happens to be the last time the Eagles had a winning record.
There are some areas, like assist-to-turnover ratio and making free throws down the stretch, where van Daalen needs to improve if the Eagles are to make a run at the Big South title.
She has 50 assists -- included in that number is a career-high 10 against Jacksonville -- 43 turnovers and is shooting just 56 percent from the free throw line.
"We want a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio," Childers said. "Yvonne needs to improve her free throw shooting, especially down the stretch in close games because she'll be the one handling the basketball."
Van Daalen's road to Rock Hill from Rotterdam started at a tournament in Germany.
"She was recommended to me by a friend who coaches in Germany," Childers said. "When I got my hands on the DVD of her workout, I could see she had good basketball skills and instincts."
So Childers made the telephone call.
"Ever since I was 12 or 13, I dreamed of playing college basketball in the United States," van Daalen said. "It was the best day of my life when I got that telephone call from coach Childers."
Childers had senior Iva Milevoj to run the show during van Daalen's freshman season. He also knew the foundation of rebuilding the Eagles would be built around a talented freshman class that included van Daalen and fellow juniors Ashley Fann, Tiffany Rodd, Ashley Haugtvedt and Franchesca Davenport. All would see plenty of playing time.
Unfortunately, van Daalen suffered a foot injury and missed 12 games of a season that saw the Eagles post a 14-15 record.
"It normally takes European players a year or two to adapt because what we play over here is such a different game," Childers said. "The injury put her behind and last year was a work in progress. She needed to step up and be the leader, but she didn't.
"This year she's playing much better and seems to be more comfortable on the floor."
And she's dedicated herself to get better in each practice and game.
"We tasted what's it's like to struggle," van Daalen said. "We didn't like it."