The Kansas University women's basketball team will open its exhibition season tonight ... and a freshman shall lead the Jayhawks.
Jennifer Jackson, a 5-foot-10 true freshman from Tuscaloosa, Ala., who was recruited to play shooting guard, is expected to start at the point when 24th-ranked KU plays host to the McDonald's Victoria All-Stars. Tipoff is 7 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse.
"Jennifer Jackson is really working hard, trying to learn as quickly as she can," KU coach Marian Washington said. "In the last couple of scrimmages, she handled the pressure well. Casey Pruitt is coming along a little slower. It's going to take a little time."
The point has been Washington's greatest concern in the preseason after the graduation loss of Tamecka Dixon and the loss of Dixon's backup, Erinn Reed, for personal reasons.
Jackson and Pruitt, a red-shirt freshman who sat out last season to rehabilitate after knee surgery, battled for the starting spot. Junior shooting guard Suzi Raymant also has worked out at the point.
"Those three women will play there," Washington said.
Raymant is expected to start at shooting guard. Kansas' only two returning starters from last season -- junior center-forward Nakia Sanford and sophomore forward Lynn Pride -- also will start.
The fifth starter is undecided.
"The last position ... I'm not really sure," Washington said. "Jaclyn Johnson could start or Koya Scott could start. It's up in the air, and it's not all based on performance on the court. Both are doing a good job. Jaclyn brings a whole different dimension than Koya, but Koya's demonstrated a lot of poise. ... We might start one the first half and the other the second half."
Johnson is a 6-1 true freshman forward from Burbank, Calif. Scott, a 6-3 center from Plano, Texas, is the only senior on the roster.
"I think this group will get stronger with time," Washington said. "We're very young, but we're going to keep getting better. I know I'm excited about next year."
She and the Jayhawks are excited about their exhibition opener. The Victoria All-Stars are coming off a split of their last two meetings: an 87-82 victory over Oral Roberts, followed by an 84-75 loss to Arkansas.
"Anytime you work as long as we have together, it gets old," Washington said. "We need to see some new faces. We still need a little more time, but we've seen some good progress. We've still got a long way to go."
The All-Stars' star is Allison Cook, a 5-10 forward who scored 34 against Arkansas and 26 against ORU.
Victoria's roster lists 12 players ranging in age from 15 to 25. Cook is the oldest. Six of the All-Stars are 17 or younger.
"The Australians have a very physical style of play," Washington said. "They like to get up and down the floor and they've got good shooters. They're going to try to transition, if they're anything like the Olympic team. I expect it will be very physical and very up-tempo."
KU's season will open for real on Sunday, when the Jayhawks travel to Creighton. Tipoff for KU-Creighton is 1 p.m.
The Jayhawks' final exhibition game will be next Tuesday against Athletes in Action at Allen Fieldhouse.
Recruiting update: Washington said she expected to sign four or five players during the early signing period, which begins Wednesday. One player expected to sign is point guard Selena Scott, a 5-foot-6 senior at Austin (Texas) St. Michael's Academy, who has already given the Jayhawks a nonbinding verbal commitment. Another point guard who already had given the Jayhawks a verbal commitment, Shaquala Williams of Portland (Ore.) Reynolds High, has changed her mind and reportedly will sign with the University of Oregon this week.
Injury update: Washington reported that the Jayhawks remained relatively healthy. "Suzi had a bad back and we were afraid she broke her finger," Washington said. "We've had some knee challenges -- tendinitis. Lynn had a problem with that. And Nikki (White) is coming along. We're not completely healthy, but we're a lot healthier than we were a couple of weeks ago."
Walk-on walks on: KU added a walk-on player in Ashley Pyle, a 5-8 freshman guard from Dodge City.
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