Danielle McCray is Danielle McCray, but the Big 12 preseason women’s basketball player of the year was on the back burner Sunday afternoon.
“It bodes well for us,” Kansas University coach Bonnie Henrickson said, “when you have Danielle McCray, and she’s not the most impressive player in the gym.”
Two Jayhawks making their first starts — Aishah Sutherland and Angel Goodrich — stole the show as KU punctured Pittsburg State, 86-56, in an exhibition game in Allen Fieldhouse.
At this time a year ago, Goodrich was on the shelf because of a knee injury, and Sutherland was so far down the bench she was nearly in another zip code.
The 6-foot-2 Sutherland, who evolved into KU’s best bench player late last season, earned her first start and paced the Jayhawks with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
“She has just outplayed everybody at her position,” Henrickson said when asked why she had started Sutherland. “She has started where she finished last year.”
What a difference a year has made for the 6-foot-2 sophomore from Perris, Calif.
“Last year I wasn’t as confident,” she said. “I was messing up on and off the court.”
Henrickson told Sutherland at mid-week she had earned her first opening bell after coming off the bench 29 times as a freshman.
“I expected it,” Sutherland said, “because I was doing good in practice.”
Goodrich expected to start, too, even if it was a year late for the talented point guard from Tahlequah, Okla.
“I was very nervous,” Goodrich said. “Actually, I’ve been nervous all week.”
That Goodrich had the jitters caught at least one of her teammates by surprise.
“She doesn’t show it at all,” McCray said. “She has that straight face all the time.”
Goodrich logged 18 minutes and contributed 10 assists, many of them thanks to finishes by Sutherland and McCray off fast breaks.
“I thought she did good,” McCray said. “That’s just talent. She was born with the ability to see the floor.”
Added Sutherland: “She’s the best passer I’ve ever played with. As long as I’m running, I know she’ll get me the ball.”
Notably, however, Goodrich attempted only two shots, missed both and didn’t score a point. Then again, Henrickson said she hasn’t installed many plays designed to free Goodrich to score.
“Right now, we don’t have a lot in for her,” the KU coach said. “We will put in more, but I didn’t want to overload her.”
Meanwhile, although playing third fiddle to Sutherland and Goodrich, McCray was solid with 18 points, five assists and three steals.
Also impressive was Nicollette Smith, who had lost her starting job to Sutherland. The 6-2 junior from Tulsa, Okla., contributed 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
Krysten Boogaard, the other starter inside, had 13 points and two boards. Thus, KU’s three top post players combined for 45 points and 20 boards.
Other than Goodrich, none of the other newcomers produced moments to remember. Freshman Monica Engelman saw the most time, logging 16 minutes, but missed six of seven shots.
Junior-college transfer Rhea Codio played 10 minutes at point guard with two assists and two turnovers.
“Rhea struggled a bit, but she’ll be fine,” Henrickson said.
Lawrence High product Tania Jackson logged three minutes in mop-up time and had three rebounds while hitting one of two free throws.
Jackson, like Goodrich, had missed all of last season because of a knee injury, so it was her first floor time since the 2008 Class 6A state championship game, when she was a junior.