G — Lamaria Cole, 5-6, soph.
G — Natalie Knight, 5-7, jr.
G — Asia Boyd, 6-1, jr.
F — Bunny Williams, 6-1, jr.
F — Chelsea Gardner, 6-3, soph.
G — Antqunita Reed, 5-9, jr.
G — Y’Cedria Devers, 5-8, sr.
G — Alexa Bordewick, 5-7, sr.
F — Lizzy Jeronimus, 5-11, jr.
F — Kylie Gafford, 6-2, soph.
A Kansas University basketball coach is ready to see how a young Jayhawks team reacts to a game situation against Div. II Pittsburg State.
Sound familiar? KU women’s coach Bonnie Henrickson and KU men’s coach Bill Self are living nearly identical lives this week as the KU women prepare for their preseason opener against the Gorillas at 8 tonight at Allen Fieldhouse.
“We’ve got to start to create and identity,” Henrickson said. “We’ve just been really inconsistent, so I’d like to see us sort of get some consistency.”
Five KU newcomers — Jada Brown, Dakota and Dylan Gonzalez, Caelynn Manning-Allen and Keyla Morgan — are expected to make their debuts tonight, while the Jayhawks also will have a new-look starting five following the graduation of 1,000-point scorers Carolyn Davis, Angel Goodrich and Monica Engelman.
Lamaria Cole, who played 45 minutes in KU’s 34 games a year ago, is expected to start at point guard alongside returning starters Natalie Knight and Chelsea Gardner and experienced players Asia Boyd and Bunny Williams.
Henrickson says Brown and Dakota Gonzalez have emerged among the freshmen, while Markisha Hawkins has earned time in KU’s regular rotation.
Henrickson often likes to talk about how her players perform “when you can smell the popcorn and hot dogs,” and she knows her team’s first opportunity in that environment didn’t go so well. The KU women looked anxious in front of a packed house at Late Night in a 12-minute scrimmage on Oct. 4.
“Hopefully we got that out of our system,” Henrickson said, “and will play a little bit better.”
The coach is especially interested in a few things tonight. For one, she wants to see how Cole handles the point-guard role. Ideally, Henrickson would like to keep Knight in her more natural positions at the 2 or 3. The biggest concern with Cole is turnovers, as she gave it away 16 times in her 45 minutes last season.
Henrickson also wants to see how her team responds to the stricter hand-checking rules, which have been a major talking point of both men’s and women’s coaches in the preseason. Henrickson has been happy with her team’s low foul totals in practice … though she joked that might also mean her players aren’t defending closely enough.
The coach also will get a chance to see how her team adjusts without Davis in the middle to grab the rebounds. During Monday’s practice, Henrickson ran her team through one drill specifically designed to have each player focus on boxing out.
“We’re just waiting for game day,” Hawkins said, “to show that we’ve been really working hard on the defensive end.”
One other note: Gardner will be wearing a protective mask after suffering a broken nose in practice last week.
Pitt State, which finished 17-10 a year ago, was picked to finish fifth out of 14 MIAA teams in the preseason coaches poll. The Gorillas lost their first exhibition game, 98-47, at Nebraska on Sunday.