Those who believe Kansas University’s women’s basketball program turned the corner last season may be correct.
Led by junior Danielle McCray, the Jayhawks fashioned a 22-14 record — KU’s best in a decade — that concluded with a loss to South Florida in the WNIT championship game in front of a Big 12-record 16,113 fans in Allen Fieldhouse.
But if the corner was indeed turned, then there is still a roadblock ahead.
Last year’s euphoric season can’t mask the fact KU hasn’t qualified for the NCAA Tournament in a decade, or that the 1999-2000 season is also the last time Kansas finished in the upper division of Big 12 Conference standings.
Coach Bonnie Henrickson has basically the same cast as last year with one exception.
Kansas didn’t have a natural point guard last season, but Henrickson believes she has one now in Angel Goodrich, a smallish (5-foot-4) native of Oklahoma who possesses instinctive point-guard skills.
Henrickson had hoped to have Goodrich last season, but a preseason ACL injury wiped out that possibility. Goodrich sat out the entire year as a medical red-shirt, but has been pronounced good to go.
Still, the focal point of this KU team will be McCray, the 5-11 senior from Olathe who has already been tapped preseason player of the year by Big 12 coaches.
There isn’t much McCray can’t do on a basketball floor. She can’t play one-against-five, though. She’ll need help, particularly in point production.
Only McCray and Sade Morris, also a senior, averaged in double-figure scoring last year. Henrickson will also be looking for improvement from 6-5 junior center Krysten Boogaard, who averaged 9.0 points and 5.5 rebounds during an inconsistent sophomore season.
Junior Nicollette Smith, whose shooting tailed off in the second semester, is the other returning starter. When she’s on, she’s the Jayhawks’ second-best three-point shooter after McCray.
Quite likely, the Jayhawks will open with the same lineup Henrickson had hoped to use last season — Goodrich at point, McCray and Morris on the wings, and Smith and Boogaard in the double post.
Nevertheless, sophomore Aishah Sutherland, who developed into KU’s most productive bench player during the second semester, might be ready to challenge for a starting job.
Another possibility is Tania Jackson, a 6-3 forward who missed her senior season at Lawrence High because of a torn ACL. Also in the picture are a pair of unrelated Houston prep products — 6-3 Carolyn Davis and 6-1 Annette Davis.
Henrickson’s other new faces are guards — 5-10 Monica Engleman, a freshman from San Antonio, and a pair of junior college transfers in 5-9 Marisha Brown and 5-8 Rhea Codio.
Engleman and Brown are probably more suited to playing on the wing while Codo is listed as a point guard.