Former Judson standout Kyra White played a key role in UTSA’s resurgence at the end of last year. Entering her senior year, she says she wants to see the team finish with a winning record and play into March. — Photo by Joe Alexander
By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
The UTSA women’s basketball team is a bit of a mystery entering its first season as a member of the American Athletic Conference. Coach Karen Aston’s third team at UTSA is picked eighth out of 14 teams, according to the AAC’s preseason poll.
Last year, UTSA started slowly but finished strong and completed records of 13-19 overall and 9-11 in Conference USA. Aston’s team played well at the end, beat some of the C-USA’s top teams and won twice in the postseason tournament to reach the semifinals.
Based on the strong showing at the end and the fact that just about all of her players are returning, it was a bit of a surprise to see the AAC coaches pick them so low. But it may be because the jury is still out on Jordyn Jenkins, the Roadrunners’ top player, who suffered an offseason knee injury.
Because of the injury, her status is one of the unknowns going into the last month of practice, though the coaches did vote her onto the AAC’s preseason all-conference second team. In a televised interview Monday morning on ESPN Plus, UTSA coach Karen Aston addressed a variety of topics:
On Elyssa Coleman, the coach said the 6-foot-3 junior from Atascocita High School is growing into a leadership role.
“She’s three years into my system now and she really understands what my expectations are. Part of that is relationship,” Aston said. “You have a relationship with someone that goes back a long way and they trust you. She’s just become an anchor for us. Her shot blocking ability is really good.
“She’s become much better offensively just through growth. But I think if I had to say one thing, it’s that she committed to us, to helping us move the needle in the program, and she has stayed committed to that. That’s been the most valuable to us.”
On Jenkins, the coach was asked about how a power forward coming out of Conference USA as Player of the Year did not receive that type of recognition in the AAC’s preseason awards.
“People didn’t necessarily, I would say, maybe respect what she did last year,” Aston said. “Or recognize (it), so to say. But she’s enormously talented. I mean, there’s no question about it. I’m excited about seeing what we do with Jordyn this year. I’m excited for her. She’s one of those types of players — and I’ve had several — that really loves the gym. She has a passion for the game, and she’s really a joy to coach.”
On how it takes time for young players to communicate on defense:
“There’s not a magical tool for that one,” Aston said. “They grow into that. For example, I have a sophomore point guard (Sidney Love) who started for me last year as a freshman. (Sidney) is a very talented player that has started to come into her own. Sidney, you can hear her voice a little bit this year. She started at the point all of last year. Probably never heard her more than twice. Now you’re starting to hear her more. It’s a maturity process.”
UTSA senior Kyra White was one of Aston’s players who traveled to Dallas for the media function. She talked to an ESPN reporter about the process of transitioning from the C-USA into the AAC.
Said White, “The experience has been really solid so far. Since we’ve got our core team back, it’s just (been) focusing on the next step, trying to find our identity on the floor. Whatever it is. Defense. Offensive rebounds. Running the floor in transition. Just focusing on the little things, to be productive and efficient in the conference this year.”
White, who played in high school at Judson, also was asked about goals. Both personally and for the team. White said she’d like to be all-conference and for the team to come out and post a winning record and keep playing in the month of March.
“For the team, we’d like to have an above .500 record and have some type of postseason play,” she said. “Obviously, the NCAA tournament is the main goal. But really, like I said, with this being my last year, just trying to get over that hump and being able to play in March anyway.”
Preseason Coaches’ Poll
1. South Florida (10) 166
2. East Carolina (4) 159
3. Rice 135
4. SMU 118
5. Memphis 115
6. Tulane 110
7. Tulsa 104
8. UTSA 75
9. Temple 72
10. Charlotte 62
11. Wichita State 53
12. North Texas 47
13. UAB 30
14. Florida Atlantic 28
x-First-place votes in parentheses
Preseason Player of the Year
Danae McNeal, Gr., G, East Carolina
Preseason All-Conference First Team
Amiya Joyner, So., F, East Carolina
Danae McNeal, Gr., G, East Carolina*
Madison Griggs, Gr., G, Memphis
Sammie Puisis, Sr., G, South Florida
Temira Poindexeter, Jr., F, Tulsa
Preseason All-Conference Second Team
Dazia Lawrence, R-Jr., G, Charlotte
Aniya Hubbard, So., G, Florida Atlantic
Malia Fisher, Jr., F, Rice
Aleah Nelson, 5th, G, Temple
Jordyn Jenkins, Sr., F, UTSA