Focus key for KU women's basketball on Virgin Islands trip

Thursday, November 28, 2013

With paradise and palm trees all around her, Kansas University women’s basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson’s biggest challenge of the season thus far might be convincing her team that what it is about to embark upon is nothing special.

“I told ’em by the time we get to Wednesday night, you might as well be in Lawrence, Kan.,” Henrickson said earlier this week.

What Henrickson meant by comparing 30-something-degree Lawrence with the 80-something-degree St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, was that, with the schedule the Jayhawks are facing during the next few days, most of their time will be spent going from hotel to gym and gym to hotel.

Just like the men’s team, which is playing a tournament in the Bahamas, the women will have their fair share of fun time during their appearance in this weekend’s Virgin Islands Paradise Jam. But Henrickson’s squad is hoping that the bulk of the joy they get from their trip to the islands will come from the results of the games.

“The players are excited and they should be excited,” Henrickson said. “You have the team-bonding part of it and also quality competition on a neutral floor in a beautiful setting. I think it’ll be really, really good for us.”

That’s the vibe felt by KU junior Natalie Knight, who said she had never been anywhere like the Virgin Islands but added that she and the rest of the upperclassmen felt an obligation to keep KU’s young roster focused.

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Knight said. “We’re playing a lot of good teams and it’ll be a good stepping stone for us to see where we’re at and what we need to work on.”

The Jayhawks (3-1) will play three games in three days, starting with Central Michigan (1-2) at 2:30 today. Next up is Xavier (2-2) at 2:30 p.m. Friday and No. 2 Duke (5-0) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

In addition to logging a couple of victories, Henrickson is looking hoping to grow in a few other areas during the escape to paradise.

“We’ve gotta be more consistent,” she said. “We can’t have (bad) stretches of four and five minutes. The quality of the competition is too good and there are teams there that’ll run you out of the gym if you do that. We’ve also gotta get more out of our bench, a little more energy.”