Back in the day, when Jody Adams was a fiery teenager playing basketball at the University of Tennessee, there wasn’t a single challenge that legendary coach Pat Summitt could give Adams that she would shy away from.
Adams pursued excellence in such a ferocious manner that she wasn’t afraid to challenge Summitt right back. That competitiveness is what made Adams a Summitt favorite, and it’s a quality that Adams searches for in her own players now.
Entering her sixth season as coach at Wichita State, Adams feels like she has found her teenage self reincarnated in the body of junior Jamillah Bonner, who transferred in this season from Butler Community College.
“She’s probably the one player that has the most of me in her,” Adams said. “That fight in her, it’s just instinctive. She’s such a competitor, it fires me up just watching it.”
Fifteen practices into the season and Bonner has already become an Adams favorite.
Speaking at the pre-season media day at Koch Arena on Monday afternoon, Adams said three players have secured their places in the starting lineup for the Shockers’ pre-season exhibition opener at home against Central Methodist on Sunday — returners Alex Harden and Michaela Dapprich, and Bonner.
While WSU desperately needed a guard to emerge from the newcomers, it speaks volumes of Bonner’s ability to have already earned a starting guard position.
“I know I have to come in and lead and be a vocal leader,” Bonner said. “When I first got here, I was a little afraid to speak up. But now I know what my role is now and that is to bring my energy and my voice to the court.”
Bonner was the gem of Adams’ 7-piece recruiting class, which has been ranked in the Top-40 of the nation by some recruiting services. Bonner, who averaged 16.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 3.8 steals per game last season at Butler, is the reason why it has been Adams’ highest-ranked class.
“Jamillah Bonner brings an entity that we have never had here,” Adams said. “Her enthusiasm, her energy, her fight...she’s an alley cat. She’s a pit. She’s somebody I love to coach.”
Fans of the program will be see a portion of former players’ games in Bonner.
“She has a little bit of Haleigh (Lankster), a little Sheena Johnson, a little Jaz (Gordon), even Chynna (Turner),” WSU senior Michelle Price said. “I love her for that. She’s going to be a really good part of the team.”
Bonner plays with a tenaciousness on both ends that Adams craves. That’s why she is turning over the point guard duties over to Bonner, who will team with Harden to handle the ball for the majority of the minutes.
Although she is not a natural distributor, one thing is for certain when Bonner handles the ball.
“I know it’s going to be an aggressive start,” Adams said. “She’s not a laid-back player. She’s a go-get-it player.”
Bonner will be a critical piece in WSU’s new look on a team trying to replace six graduating seniors that led the program to its most successful season, culminating in a Missouri Valley championship and first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
“We may not have the experience, but the focus and the willingness to want to get things done the correct way, it’s there,” Adams said. “There’s almost a key I have to unlock in (the newcomer’s) mind to go play and go compete and go out-work. But I like what I see.”