If Wichita State is to remain a threat to win the Missouri Valley, it must find a way to maximize the talent of Alex Harden and Jamillah Bonner.
While leadership positions and various other parts of how this team will work remain in question, Harden and Bonner give the Shockers the best shot at winning big again.
Figuring out how to make sure the duo compliment each other and not limit the other will be coach Jody Adams’ chief task. Adams plans on rotating both at point guard and keeping the pair on the court at the same time for the majority of the game.
It’s not a stretch to say the two-best players in the Missouri Valley will share the backcourt together. Harden and Bonner will likely be the team’s top scorers, but in contrasting styles. Harden’s game centers around grace and making plays look effortless, while Bonner relies on a rambunctious energy to wear down opponents.
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“I think they really feed off each other,” Adams said. “I think they’re going to play really well together.”
The rest is a work in progress, but having those two is a solid foundation.
Wichita State is an oddity when it comes to positions (it will start a 5-foot-10 point guard and a 5-9 power forward). But Adams is confident WSU will be the one creating the mismatches.
Michaela Dapprich, the 5-9 power forward, returns at the stretch-four position. She is more than comfortable battling in the low post, but can cause discomfort on the other end when she forces the defense to guard her from the three-point line because of her deft touch.
Michelle Price ended last season playing her best basketball and Kelsey Jacobs, before an ankle injury hampered her midway through the year, showed the ability to become a scorer. Both will play in the post for WSU.
The other junior-college transfer, Valerierose Agnello, promises to be a contributor. The five freshmen possess talent and raw ability, but no one has emerged yet as someone Adams can count on in the rotation.
A solid defense can almost be assumed under Adams and while several question marks remain, the talent of Harden and Bonner can cover up a lot of blemishes.
Defending its conference title seems ambitious, but if one or two newcomers emerge as consistent producers alongside the five returners, Wichita State should once again contend for a NCAA Tournament berth.
“Now it’s just getting the newcomers ready to play at this level,” Adams said. “Right now they need their practice and they need their film to secure them, so they’ll have the courage to step up on the stage when the lights are on and do big things. They’re just not there yet, but they’re coming.”