Who would have believed it? Who would have believed Kansas University’s men’s basketball season would end before the KU women were done?
Or that this would be the second straight year it happened?
Something Cole Aldrich said following the Jayhawks’ stunning loss to Northern Iowa the other night caught my attention.
“To work so hard and to go through so much adversity that we did through individuals on our team,” KU’s 6-foot-11 junior said, “it’s disappointing.”
I’m not sure what Aldrich meant by adversity. I assume he was referring to the death of his grandmother, Brady Morningstar’s first-semester suspension and perhaps Tyshawn Taylor breaking a thumb in that preseason flare-up with KU football players.
Whatever he meant — and we have to remember he said it in a moment of abject despair — then what happened to the Kansas women was adversity with a capital A.
Coach Bonnie Henrickson lost her starting point guard in early January, then her leading scorer less than a month later, both to season-ending knee injuries. Now that’s Adversity.
Or as Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said: “What Bonnie has gone through this year, nobody should have to go through.”
With both Angel Goodrich and Danielle McCray on the DL, the KU women dropped eight of 10 games, including six in a row. And yet, helped in large part by the WNIT expanding from 48 to 64 teams, the Jayhawks still earned a postseason berth.
Given new life, Henrickson’s team promptly won two games and advanced to a Sweet 16 meeting Thursday night at Illinois State.
How have the KU women risen from the ashes? How have they done it?
Well, you may remember that when Henrickson lost McCray, the Big 12’s preseason player of the year, in early February, she said something about not reinventing the wheel.
Henrickson did, however, install different spokes. That is to say, she retooled her offense to take advantage of the untapped post skills of Carolyn Davis.
During the first semester, Davis was just another body on the bench, one of two freshmen named Davis — Annette is the other — who appeared to be one more first-year player who wasn’t ready for prime time.
Then after Goodrich went down in the conference opener against Oklahoma State, Davis was awarded her first start.
But it wasn’t until McCray was done that Davis became the focal point of the offense — a transition that was punctuated in back-to-back games against Texas and Colorado when she scored 29 and 28 points, respectively.
Basically, what the Jayhawks had to learn was how to feed Davis in the post. Thanks to her ability to jump and her sure hands, the 6-foot-3 Davis can corral high passes over defenders’ heads and float right to the basket.
Now that she appears to be over the lingering effects of a concussion that caused her to miss two games, Davis gives the Jayhawks at least a glimmer of hope of reaching the WNIT championship game again.
Without Davis, the Jayhawks would have had no hope.