KU women’s basketball embraces change
So much changeover exists within the Kansas University women’s basketball program right now, you’ll have to be patient with first-year head coach Brandon Schneider when it comes to figuring out one fairly significant aspect of this roster’s makeup.
Only sophomore point guard Lauren Aldridge, junior forward Jada Brown and sophomore guard Chayla Cheadle — all complementary players last season — have started more than two Division I games. That’s the number of career starts for junior big Caelynn Manning-Allen. No other available Jayhawk can even claim one.
As a result, the Year 1 transition for the former Stephen F. Austin and Emporia State coach includes discovering who KU can count on for points.
“Right now, I have no idea who’s gonna provide us the bulk of the scoring, whether it’s one player or three players,” Schneider said Wednesday, at his inaugural media day at Allen Fieldhouse. “I think right now, we’re gonna have to be very balanced, because as we practice and we work with our players, I don’t think you’d look at our roster and say, ‘OK, well that’s a guy who can go get them 20 (points) every night.’ Now we’re hoping that somebody proves to be that player, but based on the past, I don’t think that would be the case.”
Aldridge, at 8.1 points per game, ranks first among KU’s returning players, followed by Cheadle, who contributed 5.8 for KU in 2014-15, under previous coach Bonnie Henrickson. Then there is junior guard Timeka O’Neal (3.0 in one appearance, before tearing her right anterior cruciate ligament), Manning-Allen (2.3), Brown (2.1) and sophomore forward Lorraine Enabulele (0.2). That’s 21.5 points of returning offense, with an asterisk that 3.0 of those comes from a very small sample size.
For Schneider, who went out of his way to say he is not inheriting a program in a mess, there at least is a flip-side to that monstrous question mark. Without a wealth of ball-dominant incumbents, newcomers should be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel in the form of attainable playing time. The coach hopes that will cultivate competitive practices, and thereby progress.
“We have freshmen that are gonna compete,” Schneider said. “Whether it’s for starting roles or significant playing time.”
Kansas has six rookies in the running: 6-foot-3 center Chelsea Lott, 5-7 guard Aisia Robertson, 5-8 guard Jayde Christopher, 5-10 guard Kylee Kopatich, 6-1 guard Kelea Dennis and 6-2 forward Tyler Johnson. Plus, junior Sydney Benoit, a 5-10 guard who transferred from Hutchinson Community College, joins the program. Transfers McKenzie Calvert (USC) and Jessica Washington (North Carolina) can’t suit up until 2016-17.
Aldridge, who averaged 5.0 assists per game as a freshman, admitted she has no idea who will emerge as KU’s leading scorer in the coming months, but she thinks Schneider’s four-out, one-in system should make things interesting.
“We might have Chayla go for 21 one game, we might have Caelynn go for 15 another,” the point guard said. “It’s just a really open offense, which I think is good for everybody on this team.”
Brown, whom Schneider wants playing more outside than she did in the past, said the new coach’s run-oriented offense was like “hot and cold” compared to last season.
“Everything is so high uptempo, and it’s a high standard set,” the 6-0 forward said. “And you’re gonna make that standard. There’s no way around that.”
The Jayhawks’ first exhibition is Nov. 1, at 2 p.m., against Pittsburg State.