Ten games into the 2013-14 season, Kansas University women’s basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson knows one thing about her team.
“We’re clearly not tough enough,” said Henrickson, whose Jayhawks (5-5) will play host to Tulsa (4-3) at 2 this afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse. “And there’s more to toughness than just the physical element.”
To hammer home that point, Henrickson will be handing out homework during the team’s time away from the classroom. Every winter break, Henrickson’s squad conducts a “team read,” where they choose a book that pertains to basketball, life or a combination of both and then read it together, going over the key points chapter by chapter. This year’s book is “Toughness” by ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, and Henrickson said the home stretch of the nonconference schedule is the perfect time for her team to read a book like that, as the Jayhawks fine-tune things in preparation for conference play.
“We’re learning that we need to be more tough than ever down the stretch,” said freshman Keyla Morgan, referencing KU’s bad luck at the end of four of its five losses. “Coach Bonnie just says we need to be together during the tough times, and we have to have something to fall back on, and that’s our toughness.”
Added Henrickson: “When they start to say what you say, you’re at least making some progress.”
Asked which player on this Kansas roster demonstrated the most toughness, Henrickson and Morgan pointed to senior guard CeCe Harper, who enters today’s game averaging 10 points and four rebounds per game and also in possession of the most assists (39) on the roster.
“CeCe, without question,” said Henrickson, answering the question. “And I think she’s grown to that point. From the Minnesota game on, she’s kind of willed us to either stay in games or win games.”
Tulsa represents a good growth opportunity for the Jayhawks because the Golden Hurricane are a lot like them, Henrickson said.
“They’re a young team, and they have some returners who are in different roles, kind of like us,” Henrickson said. “Like us, they’ve been really good at times and then have been inconsistent at times. If (Tulsa coach) Matilda (Mossman) and I had a chance to have a lengthy conversation, we would probably sound like each other.”
With Big 12 play looming after the break and the Jayhawks still trying to find an identity, toughness will be one of the major points of emphasis during games and in practice, as well. The hope is that a better performance there will lead to better results on the scoreboard.
“This is a big game for us because it’s on our home court,” Morgan said. “And we’re pretty much done with losing at home.”