I must admit, I was excited about the future of the Kansas University women’s basketball program when I saw how the freshman class played three years ago.
Carolyn Davis went down with an injury, and Chelsea Gardner stepped into the center position and played like a veteran, a very talented veteran.
Asia Boyd didn’t get to play very often, but when she did, she showed the talent that made her a highly rated recruit.
Natalie Knight had such a pure shot, such a winning attitude.
Now they’re seniors. The future is now. And it’s bleak. They all have had productive careers, Knight and Gardner crossing the 1,000-point milestone for their careers, but their final two seasons have been bummers in terms of the team’s success. Barring a Tiny Tim-ish miracle, Boyd’s career has ended. She was on crutches Wednesday night because of a stress fracture of the left foot. The trio will leave Kansas with something in common with every other Bonnie Henrickson recruiting class: They never had a winning Big 12 season.
It’s Senior Night for all three players Monday against Iowa State, and they deserve a big crowd to thank them for their efforts. So does Bonnie. My guess is it will be the Senior Night of her Kansas coaching career as well, the final chance to thank her. Thank her for working extremely hard, for organizing an annual golf tournament that is so well run, so popular and raises so much money to battle breast cancer. Thank her for making the community in which she lives a better place.
It feels as if the time has come, so why not send the woman who coached the Jayhawks into the WNIT title game with Danielle McCray leading the way, recruited Angel Goodrich — amazing Angel Goodrich — to Kansas and watched her lead KU into consecutive Sweet 16 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, out with one more good memory?
Seriously, how hard would it be to drive to Monday’s 7 p.m. tipoff and surprise four women who have endured another rough season by turning what normally is a joyless atmosphere into a happy party for a night?
The team might even do its part and play considerably better than it did in Wednesday’s 55-48 loss to a so-so Kansas State team in Allen Fieldhouse. The Wildcats won despite shooting 28.1 percent and losing the battle of the boards by 13.
How does that happen? The way it usually does for Kansas. Turnovers. Lots and lots of turnovers. There were 15 in the first half, 23 for the game, five in the final 3:48, which had a lot to do with K-State’s late 12-0 run.
It was the 13th time this season KU (13-16) reached the 20-turnover milestone. KU has turned it over fewer times than its opponent just six times. The .293 shooting night made it 10 times the team has shot .400 or worse after a .293 shooting night.
Players overloaded with information tend to think too much on the court. That can lead to turnovers and generally passive play and in turn a joyless atmosphere in the fieldhouse.
Henrickson’s Big 12 records, since taking over the program in 2004-05: 5-11, 5-11, 4-12, 4-12, 6-10, 5-11, 6-10, 8-10 (Sweet 16), 8-10 (Sweet 16), 5-13 and 4-12 and counting.
Eleven losing seasons with small crowds at most of the games does not earn a coach a 12th, especially when the buyout calls for just one year of salary in the contract extension athletic director Sheahon Zenger signed Henrickson to after her second Sweet 16.
Still, the only appropriate response for Monday night’s home finale is a big, passionate crowd. Leave the reflections on Bonnie’s career at KU for another night. Here’s how I’ll remember her tenure: Bonnie, yes! Bonnieball, not quite.