LAWRENCE — It’s a new era for Kansas women’s basketball, which is moving on without the three cornerstone seniors that led the program to Sweet 16 appearances the last two years.
But as Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson enters her 10th season, there’s one thing her program hasn’t lost: The expectations set by All-Big 12 point guard Angel Goodrich (now with the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock), Carolyn Davis and Monica Engelman, all 1,000-point scorers during their four-year careers.
“I think for us,” Henrickson said, “from a culture standpoint in our program, from a commitment standpoint, from an expectations standpoint, we are where we need to be.”
Henrickson hopes some of that culture rubs off on a roster that includes five freshmen and a handful of players stepping into leadership roles for the first time. It begins with junior guard Natalie Knight, a graduate of Olathe South, who returns after suffering a season-ending knee injury in late January. Knight, who started and averaged 8.3 points before her injury, should be close to 100 percent when the regular season begins this week.
And she may need to be.
Henrickson will be searching for a way to replace Goodrich, who averaged 14.1 points and 7.2 assists during her senior season. In addition to Knight, Henrickson says sophomore Lamaria Cole and senior CeCe Harper could also see time at the point.
“What’s Natalie gonna do?” Henrickson said. “We know what she’s not gonna do, and that’s turn the ball over. She’s gonna take care of the ball, run good half-court offense. Are we gonna play as fast as I want to play? No, but I’m gonna like how we play, because she’s not gonna turn the ball over.”
Knight added: “Each person is gonna have to do their part, and all the upperclassmen are going to have to step up this year, not just one or two of us.”
Henrickson also added an infusion of youth to the program, including freshman twins Dylan and Dakota Gonzalez, a pair of 6-foot wings from Pocatello, Idaho. Their mother, the former Angie Snider, played at KU in the early 1980s.
Add in junior forward Chelsea Gardner, who averaged 8.7 points and nearly seven rebounds last season, and KU does have some core pieces back in the mix. The Jayhawks finished 20-14 last season, sneaking into the NCAA tournament after going 8-10 in the Big 12. They still managed another run to the Sweet 16 as a No. 12 seed. And from that perspective, the program still has room to grow. For now, Knight says, the goal is to sustain the recent trend of success.
“I’m excited to see our potential,” Knight said, “to see everything come together and see how the pieces are gonna fit.”