The hard-core fans of women's basketball went to Reed Arena twice to see the check on the team and see the new faces for the Maroon and White scrimmage on Friday Oct. 23 and Sunday Nov 1 for an exhibition game against the Texas Wesleyan University Rams. This post will update my impressions since the (two-part) WBB roundtable hosted by our friends at A Sea of Blue back in August. And there's some news we've learned since then.
There are mixed expectations for the upcoming year. On the one hand, this is the Senior season for the best recruiting class in the history of Aggie Women's basketball. This is going to be our last season with point guard Jordan Jones and the two Courtneys of the CW Network. It's also the final campaign for wing Chelsea Jennings and center Rachel Mitchell. So expectations are high. But at the same time, both the quality of the competition in the SEC and questions about the Ags justify the consensus that picks the Ags to finish somewhere around 4th in the conference.
The questions and news start an point, where Jordan Jones, who is on pace to finish as the all-time leader in assists, finished the year on the sidelines on crutches with a season-ending knee injury. It was great to see JJ back in the starting lineup, and she seems to be just as quick and willing to dive after loose balls, even with a new knee brace. Coach Blair told the crowd that Jones is 90% back. The other question over the summer was what was going on with backup PG Curtyce Knox, who had a rough couple of games after Jones went down. When Blair started talking about how Courtney Walker would see time at PG to improve her WNBA prospects, and when Curtyce was missing from videos of the Ags in practice, we wondered what was going on with Knox. Was Curtyce in the dog house? Had she dropped an F-bomb on Coach Bond during a game? No. The answer came out with the news that Curtyce had delivered a baby girl (iIRC; the announcement link has disappeared) in October. New mother Knox is back with the team but did not play in either the M&W or the exhibition.
The other big news was a schematic one. After many years of explaining to the press how he is a set plays coach and not a motion coach, the Ags are installing a motion offense. It's going to be interesting to see how this works, and based on Sunday's exhibition, it's going to be installed gradually... unless hearing Coach yelling "double high" from the bench is a decoy. Assistant Bob Starkey has been working on a book on motion offense since before he came to Aggieland, but Starkey is in charge of the D, so while I'm sure all the coaches consult with each other, I'm wondering what led Coach Blair and Associate HC Kelly Bond (who, IIRC, is the OC) to make the change this year. Maybe it's having so many seniors whose judgement he trusts. Maybe it was stimulated by the retirement of Andy Landers at Georgia, or thinking about how the motion vs set plays philosophy affects recruiting.
Texas Wesleyan, as expected for an exhibition, was an overmatched opponent. They were better last year than their 16-16 record in the NAIA Sooner Athletic Conference, since they had to forfeit four games for inadvertently playing a player who had fallen out of academic eligibility. From that team, the Rams returned only two significant players, and their tallest players were a pair of 6 footers.
The Ags starting lineup was
- Sr. Jordan Jones at point.
- So. Khaalia Hillsman at the post
- Sr. Courtney Walker at 2 guard
- Sr. Courtney WIlliams at the 3
- So Tr. Jasmine Lupkin at the 4
WBB has gone to quarters this year. The first quarter score was 23-4, and with the Ags using the game to work on things, it didn't get much better for TWU. By the end of the game, five Ags had scored in double figures. The Aggie bench outscored the Rams entire team 45-40. Courtney Williams led all scorers with 17, while Courtney Walker had 12. Jones had 8 points plus 9 assists against only one turnover. The Aggie D seemed to be more aggressive than last year, trapping more and forcing 27 turnovers that led to 38 points. It could have been more but for a couple of missed breakaway layups.
The Ags graduated four players from last year's team: two power forwards in Achiri Ade and Tavarsha Scott-Williams, 5th woman Tori Scott, and walk-on Allison Chu. Jada Terry transferred when it became clear that Khaalia was the post of the future. New players for this season are:
- #21 6-0 soph transfer forward Jasmine Lumpkin. Jasmine was with the team for the Spring semester, having to sit after transferring from Michigan State. She was a strong contributor in practice and now has one of the starting spots at the 4. I saw some good picks and strong rebounds from Lumpkin.
- #12 5-10 freshman guard Danni Williams. Danni was a 5 star recruit out of Clovis, New Mexico who is left handed guard who shoots the 3 well enough to have finished second in a national 3 point contest last spring. She can also put the ball on the floor, going behind her back on one run-out on Sunday. She had 10 vs Texas Wesleyan and led all scorers with 19 in the Maroon and White game. She's also a confident defender ... she defended Walker in the M&W scrimmage and had 2 steals vs the Rams.
- #5 6-0 freshman forward Anriel Howard. Howard sat out the M&W game with an injury, but was an instant energy boost when she came off the bench in the first quarter. She scored 6 points in the quarter, but later made some freshman errors.
- #34 5-8 soph guard Darienne Serna. Serna is a walk-on who didn't play on Sunday but made an impression playing for the white team and with the men's practice squad in the Maroon and White scrimmage by scoring 11 points including some bombs from long range.
- Courtney Williams looks like she's ready for a huge season. She's playing at a different level than everyone else. Between the normal maturation process leading to a senior season and whatever she gained on the Pan Am games team, she's looking good.
- Coach said at the M&W game that Chelsea Jennings was the most improved player based on progress over the summer
- In addition to adding motion, Blair may also have turned the team loose from behind the arc. The lack of 3 point production has allowed opponents to sag off and clog the paint. It's only one game, but the Ags were 8-13 from behind the arc. Jones (2-2), Danni (2-3), Taylor Cooper (2-3), CWill (1-4), and Shlonte Allen (1-1) all hit treys. The Ags only had 6.5 attempts per game last year.
- Although I was at Reed, it's kind of amazing to realize that a preseason WBB exhibition was available on the WatchESPN stream via SECN+.
Up next: The season opener vs Texas State
- Texas State Bobcats
- 6 PM Friday Nov 13, (Yes, we're playing on Friday the 13th). Come out to Reed before Midnight Yell vs W. Carolina. It's a double-header with the men, who play USC update after the women finish.
- Reed Arena
The Ags take this week off and then open the regular season by hosting the Texas State Bobcats. The Bobcats played for years in the Southland Conference, spent a couple of years in the WAC, and are now in the Sun Belt. Last year they tied for 4th in the conference and lost at home in the WBI. They are picked by the coaches to finish 6th this year. Notable players
- #35 6-0 Senior G Erin Peoples let the Bobcats in scoring last year and was 2nd team All Sun Belt.
- #1 5-3 Senior PG led the team in assists and is a preseason All Sun Belt 2nd teamer.
Texas State graduated three starters from last season's team and it's not clear which other returners will see the floor.
BTHO Texas State!