Even little ol' Fort Hays State has the Kansas University women's basketball team full of anxiety.
The Division Two in-state foe will visit Allen Fieldhouse tonight for a 7 p.m. exhibition game.
It will be the first game for first-year coach Bonnie Henrickson, which makes an otherwise unimportant tuneup a really big deal around KU's locker room.
"It is going to be a big thing," guard Aquanita Burras said. "We all feel like freshmen right now, so it's all important to us."
Henrickson came from Virginia Tech to replace Marian Washington, who retired after 31 seasons leading KU's women's team.
Not surprisingly, Henrickson's arrival has led to a transitional period that hasn't always been easy. What fans see tonight may not be the most polished version of Bonnieball, but Henrickson said they were getting closer.
"I think we've made progress," Henrickson said. "We're not in any category where we need to be, but I think that's the case with most teams out there."
For now, Henrickson is not even sure who will start. Junior Crystal Kemp has locked down a forward spot, and if Alicia Rhymes is over an illness she was battling last week she'll post up on the other side.
Junior Erica Hallman and senior Aquanita Burras will be at guard, while the last spot is a battle between senior Blair Waltz, junior Kaylee Brown and sophomore Sharita Smith.
Seven players in the running leaves only three on the paper-thin roster who surely will start on the bench -- freshmen Jamie Boyd and Taylor McIntosh and junior transfer Heather Hayes.
"My players know," Henrickson said, "it's not who starts the game, it's who finishes it."
Henrickson anticipates her shooters will be smothered by Fort Hays State's half-court man-on-man defense. In addition, the Tigers have no players over 6-foot-1, so Kemp -- at 6-2 -- could receive extra attention as well.
The Tigers are stocked with in-state talent, led by two local standouts. Free State High grad Katie Rhodes has proven to be one of FHSU's top outside threats, while Ottawa High grad Lindsey Dieterich averaged nearly six points per game as a reserve guard last year.
Today's game is one of two exhibitions on KU's slate. The Jayhawks will play the California All-Stars next Tuesday before starting the regular season Nov. 21 against Texas-Arlington.