It seemed like a good idea to Kansas women’s basketball star Danielle McCray at the time, so she told sky-walking Aishah Sutherland, a 6-foot-2 freshman from Perris, Calif., to dunk the ball during halftime warmups Monday night in Albuquerque.
McCray’s Midas touch being what it is, Sutherland dunked it, a feat she had tried in practice but never quite achieved. It was a defining moment for Danielle and the Miracles, who have advanced to the WNIT semifinals for a 7 p.m. tipoff today in Allen Fieldhouse against Illinois State.
They are reaching heights few thought possible. Could it be they will draw a loud and proud crowd to Allen Fieldhouse tonight in the first April game in the building’s history? That’s up to you. The bandwagon has thousands upon thousands of seats left on it. It’s parked at the southeast corner of Allen Fieldhouse, otherwise known as the ticket office. Five bucks gets you a seat, meaning it’s still possible to say the words “bargain” and “Allen Fieldhouse” in the same sentence.
A little something is happening here with Bonnie Henrickson’s program. The bandwagon no longer is stuck. Junior wing McCray has driven it out of the mud with the help of a push from rapidly improving teammates. Bonnie Ball has been taken off life support. Suddenly, the future looks bright.
That halftime dunk on a 10-foot hoop, the miracle from one of the Miracles, it wouldn’t have happened a few months ago. She would have tripped on her way to the hoop, triggering a chuckle at the Jayhawks’ expense. Back then, the players looked as if they were thinking about where to be and what to do. In recent weeks, they’ve looked like fluid athletes, not statuesque thinkers. They play with so much more confidence.
If McCray is the Michael Jordan of this team, then fellow junior Sade Morris is the Scottie Pippen. Morris does it all, except dunk. That’s Sutherland’s sole domain.
When Henrickson told Sutherland dunking in warmups can draw a technical, the player said, “Oh, I didn’t know that. Danielle was telling me to dunk the ball, so I said, ‘OK, I’ll dunk it.’”
Sutherland won’t be the halftime attraction tonight. Players from the men’s team will sign autographs then.
“It’s as exciting a time as our women’s team has seen in the last several years,” men’s coach Bill Self said. “It’d be great for everybody to come out and support the team. ... If we have a good crowd and were to beat Illinois State, maybe we’d have an opportunity to host the final.”