With four starters — all except forward Michelle Price — returning from an NCAA Tournament team, there does not appear to be much room for a 5-foot-6 freshman guard in Wichita State’s starting lineup.
Aundra Stovall sees the situation differently.
“She will challenge somebody for their starting position,” WSU coach Jody Adams said. “She wants to be the starting point guard. Whether she gets it or not, she will challenge somebody.”
Stovall, from Arlington (Texas) Seguin High, isn’t likely to unseat All-MVC junior Alex Harden, who led WSU in scoring and assists last season. Senior Jamillah Bonner is back after averaging 12.9 points and 4.2 rebounds. But even though recovery from a knee injury limits Stovall, she is making a big impression on Adams with her desire to compete and stand up to the veterans.
“She’s not scared of anything,” Adams said. “She wants to contribute right away. You need to have a little bit of greediness in you and greediness is the competitor in you.”
Stovall’s father raised her not to back down. Eugene Johnson started training his daughter in second grade.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are, or freshman or senior,” she said. “The only thing they may have on you is experience. You can pick that up any day, just outworking whoever you can.”
A torn ACL forced Stovall to miss her senior season and she had arthroscopic surgery earlier this summer as a follow-up. She participates in most of the drills during conditioning workouts (often skipping long runs) and sits out contact drills during basketball. Adams expects Stovall to regain full strength in time for practices in October.
When assistant coach Chandra Dorsey watched Stovall persevere through the discomfort, she told herself that Stovall is the kind of player who can help the Shockers win.
Her teammates notice, too.
“She’s one of the toughest freshmen that I’ve seen,” Harden said. “Nothing really fazes her. Even when she’s tired, or you see other people getting down, you hear her voice, you see her pushing through. She keeps moving.”
Teammates describe Stovall as a pass-first point guard. As a junior, she averaged 11.4 points and 2.7 assists on her way to all-district and all-region selections.
“I like to put my team in it and keep my team in it,” she said. “I like the feeling of knowing I’m helping somebody else out.”
Visit by the Vols — Adams is dramatically improving WSU’s non-conference schedule. It will be tough to top the 2015-16 season’s marquee visitor. Tennessee will visit Koch Arena as part of a home-and-home series that begins this season on Dec. 16 in Knoxville.
Adams (and assistant Bridgette Gordon) played for Tennessee, both winning NCAA titles, and helped build that program that stands as one of the elite in women’s basketball. Tennessee owns eight NCAA titles, most recently in 2008, and 18 trips to the Final Four.
“I am so stoked,” WSU senior Kelsey Jacobs said. “It’s going to be awesome. The whole team is looking forward to it. (Gordon) said she’d give us the tour and everything.”
Adams is close friends with Tennessee coach Holly Warlick, who took over from Pat Summitt in 2012.
“Holly is one of my dearest friends, and a mentor of mine,” Adams said. “We spend a week together at the beach, talking basketball. We share. We’re really about bettering each other’s program and bettering our game.”
Adams and Warlick discussed playing in the past. This season, the dates worked. Adams sees the trip to Knoxville as preparation for the NCAA Tournament.
“You have some BCS programs that won’t play us,” Adams saids. “She knows exactly who we are and what we’re about. It will be very challenging for us, especially in front of a crazy crowd dressed in orange.”
Building block — Theodore (Ala.) point guard Dazon (DAY-zon) Ingram said he will visit Wichita State on Sept. 18 after including the Shockers on a list includes Alabama, Alabama-Birmingham, Tennessee, Missisippi, Louisiana Tech, Houston and Middle Tennessee State.
WSU’s engineering program is one reason the school made the cut. He is a builder, the kind of kid who grew up playing with Legos.
On the basketball court, he sees himself as a fit with WSU’s style of play because of his ability to rebound and push the ball up court.
“I like the coaches and the way they play basketball,” he said. “They like to get the ball and run.”
According to Al.com, Ingram (6-5) averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for Theodore.
“My jump shot is starting to improve,” he said. “I’ve been working on it all summer. I like playing defense, and when I play good competition it makes me play better.”
WSU is battling several schools with home-field advantage in the South. Theodore is 237 miles from Tuscaloosa, home of Alabama, and 270 from Birmingham. Both schools appear to be chasing him hard.
“I talk to (Alabama assistant Antoine) Pettway just about every day,” Ingram told Al.com. “He tells me he can make me special and how from Day 1 I'm going to get on the court.”
Distance hasn’t disqualified WSU, so far.
“It’s not a big factor to me,” he said. “I’m looking for a school where I can come in and make an impact.”
WSU also remains in the picture for Park Hill (Mo.) guard Landry Shamet, who narrowed his choices to WSU, Kansas State, Illinois and Colorado this week with a Twitter announcement featuring a graphic with logos of the schools. Shamet visited WSU earlier this summer and attended two games last season.
He plans visit WSU later this week, he said in a text message.
Shamet (6-4) averaged 20.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists for Park Hill, which went 14-14. He earned All-Class 5 honors and honorable mention All-Metro from The Kansas City Star.
Worth noting — WSU’s tennis teams are the subject of a segment with Tony Minnis of the Tennis Channel’s Inside College Tennis show. The show first aired at 9 a.m. Saturday. Reruns are scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday, 10:30 a.m. Aug. 31, 4:30 p.m. Sept. 8 and 9:30 p.m. Sept. 11 … Former Shocker Ramon Clemente scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds for Puerto Rico in Friday’s 112-86 loss to the United States at Madison Square Garden. Clemente, whose father was born in Puerto Rico, will play for the national team in the FIBA World Cup in Spain that begins later this month in Spain.