There was a strong sense of optimism at Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday during the University of Kansas’ Women’s basketball media day on Monday. Coach Brandon Schneider is coming off his first season as head coach of the women’s basketball team. The Jayhawks finished 6-25 overall and did not win a conference game all season in 2015-16. They earned a victory over the TCU Horned Frogs in the Big 12 tournament, and that win was a point of emphasis for Schneider.
“You know, maybe our performance in the Big 12 tournament, whether it was with the win over TCU or we’re in the game in the fourth quarter with Texas. I think we were down eight in the fourth quarter. That’s the No. 6 team in the country. And I just thought we really showed a lot of progress down the stretch when a lot of teams in those situations would have tanked it long ago.”
KU’s trip to Europe has also played an important role in building the chemistry of the team and coaches. The Jayhawks went 4-0 in that trip, and Schneider said he believes the trip was an excellent building block for this season.
“We’re really excited about the opportunity to build on the momentum that we’ve built this summer, especially in regards to our trip to Europe. I was really happy with a lot of things that I saw.”
It was the first opportunity for transfers Jessica Washington and McKenzie Calvert to get on the court with the rest of the team. They sat out last season because of NCAA transfer rules. Schneider mentioned that he hopes for a change of pace in the offense this season, and that the addition of Washington and Calvert should provide a different look for the Jayhawks.
Senior Caelynn Manning-Allen said she believes not having any incoming freshman has benefitted the team’s chemistry over the summer. The roster looks very similar to last year’s squad with the exception of the departed transfer Lauren Aldridge, who left for Missouri. Aldridge was KU’s best player a year ago, so those will be some tough shoes to fill.
Schneider mentioned a few players that figure to take on an increased leadership role this year.
“I do know that Jayde Christopher and Kylee Kopatich have been really vocal. And then our seniors, Caelynn Manning-Allen and Jada Brown. I think Chayla Cheadle is another player. I don’t know that right now we have just, hey, that’s our leader. You know, I think we need to get into October practices and get into some situations where some guys have to earn that.”
Schneider’s new house was on everyone’s mind, and he said that his home has certainly helped mold a family atmosphere for the team.
“I didn’t have a house and I lived in an apartment all last year while our home was being built. So the team’s not coming over and you’re not doing all those activities that are really, really important to me. And now, since March that’s been completely different, just from just here in town, the team building and the chemistry that we’re able to do, whether it be the players, the staff, and we kind of have a place now.”
The coach and his players have higher expectations this season, and the Jayhawks appear much more comfortable heading into the 2016-17 season. Confidence will be critical for KU as they look to build upon Schneider’s first year.