Don't look for the women's basketball team to make a Cinderella run through the Big 12 this season.
Sure, Kansas has the prerequisites to qualify as a longshot: The Jayhawks lost four of their five leading scorers, only one member of the team has been past the second round of the NCAA Tournament and they have the injured veteran with the capability of inspiring the team.
But that's just the thing none of the returning players averaged more than eight points per game and only a few players have experience playing every day, and Kansas coach Marian Washington knows it.
"Basically, rebuilding is what we're having to do," she said. "We've lost a lot of players over the last two years and we've got a lot of young recruits. These are young people I'm very excited about and really believe can do something."
Five players from last year's team will not return. Brooke Reves, Jennifer Jackson and Jaclyn Johnson who plays for the Orlando Miracle in the WNBA graduated. Fernanda Bosi left the team in mid-season last year for personal reasons and returned to her home in Brazil. Rodneikka Freeman, who red-shirted as a freshman last year, announced that she would not return to Kansas and was transferring so she would have the opportunity to play.
"I think any player that wants to compete finds it tough to not play," Washington said. "Rodneikka is still a year away. I think she's in a situation where she'll be able to play and I am happy for her."
The Jayhawks also lost five players after the 1999-2000 season. Suzi Raymant, Heather Fletcher and Lynn Pride who plays for the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA graduated. Casey Pruitt opted not to return for her fourth year of eligibility and Jaime Shelite did not return for her sophomore season.
Even through all the attrition, the Jayhawks should count them as lucky to have one player back who was not going to return. Nikki White said late last season that she would not use her fourth year of eligibility she medically red-shirted during her sophomore season after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament because of nagging injuries. White played some of last season with a plastic mask because of a broken nose she suffered early in the season, but her legs caused her the most trouble.
"The decision for Nikki to come back was most definitely hers," Washington said. "We treated her as a graduating senior last year at the banquet. It wasn't until later on that she said she was feeling better and talked to me about the possibility about playing overseas. Then she said would rather come back and play with us."
It's likely that White won't be able to give the Jayhawks more than 20 minutes a game, but she is the only returning player who has been to the Sweet 16 and because her intensity she is a leader to her teammates. And despite minimal playing time last season because of her ailments, she was able to average 5.1 points per game and 3.4 rebounds the highest total for all returners.
Senior KC Hilgenkamp, a shooting guard, is Kansas' fourth leading scorer from last season with 7.6 points per game the highest among all returners and she made 31 of 75 three-point shots, 41.3 percent. She started 22 games last year while averaging 30 minutes per game tops among returners and is second among returners with 78 assists.
Hilgenkamp can play the point guard position, but that duty will primarily rest with senior Selena Scott. Scott, who started 17 games last season and averaged 26 minutes per game, leads all returners with 79 assists.
"It's going to be an interesting year for us," Scott said. "We've got a lot of new people coming in and we lost some people. Hopefully we'll be able to get something going early on and go from there."
Kristin Geoffroy will split time with White at the center position. Geoffroy, a 6-6 senior from Los Alamitos, Calif., has steadily improved in her three seasons at Kansas, but said she thinks she has not yet reached her full potential.
"I know I can be better," she said. "I've been working hard in the off-season to improve and I think this might be the year for me."
Senior Dalchon Brown might be able to help Kansas in the paint, too. She did not play to her ability last season and averaged only 2.4 points per game and did not play in five of the team's final 10 games last season.
Sharrone Spencer didn't play in any games last year, but that was not by choice. She tore the ACL and damaged the MCL and lateral meniscus in her right knee. The Compton, Calif., sophomore sat out her freshman year because of the NCAA partial qualifier rule, and during the first days of practice of last season she injured her knee and had to sit out the entire season.
Guards Kristen May and Leila Menguc also return for Kansas, as does senior forward Katie Hannon.
Kansas' incoming recruits will get playing time, Washington said. Six players were signed during the off-season.
Blair Waltz, who led Blue Valley North High to two Class 6A state championships, should see time at shooting guard and small forward. Chelsea Thompson, who was a 2000-2001 Street & Smith pre-season honorable mention All-American, is a versatile player who can play many positions, Washington said.
"Blair was a stand-out in high school and we're very excited about having her here," Washington said. "She's one of our own, an in-state kid. She's a long-range shooter who has the capability of breaking you down off the dribble.
"Chelsea gives us a lot of flexibility. She can play the one, two or three positions and has a good outside shot. Her flexibility is really her strength and she is able to do a number of things."
Kansas doubled its number of Californians on its roster with the addition of Sereeta Jones and Brandi McGinest.
Jones, a 6-0 freshman from Visalia, Calif., averaged 25.7 points and 13.3 rebounds during her senior season at Rancho Buena Vista High. McGinest, from Long Beach, Calif., was averaging 11 points per game and nine rebounds before she broke her ankle midway through her senior year at Long Beach Poly High.
Washington signed Keila Beachem, who did not play basketball her senior year in high school after she transferred schools, out of Angelina Junior College. She was an All-TEACH Conference honorable mention and averaged 12 points and 14 rebounds in one season.
The Jayhawks also went north of the border to sign recruits. Valerie Migicovsky, a 6-6 freshman from North Bay, Ontario, averaged 21.2 points and helped her team to three district championships at Algonquin Secondary School.
With so many incoming players Washington knows that this team is young and it will take some time before it can come together and win games consistently.
"We've got a lot of kids that don't have a lot of experience," she said. "You can't just get that overnight. In time maybe this class can do for the program and pick it up a notch like what Temecka Dixon's class did and the class last year of Jaclyn, Jennifer and Brooke did."