University of Kansas

Jesse Newell breaks down the Jayhawk women’s team

Coach Brandon Schneider lost his top scorer to a transfer but brings in two highly regarded transfers to help Kansas out of the Big 12 cellar.
Coach Brandon Schneider lost his top scorer to a transfer but brings in two highly regarded transfers to help Kansas out of the Big 12 cellar. Kansas Athletics

The hope comes from the final month.

Kansas women’s basketball coach Brandon Schneider believes his team peaked at an unlikely time last season, winning a game over TCU in the Big 12 Tournament before hanging close the next day against sixth-ranked Texas. That was after KU went 0-18 in Big 12 play during Schneider’s first season.

“I thought we got a lot better in the last three weeks,” Schneider said, “and I have tremendous respect for our players in that they never quit.”

Schneider believes his team can build on that progress this season, as it will go from one of the youngest squads in the nation to much more experienced, helped by a couple of key newcomers who should step into major roles.

That starts with guard Jessica Washington, a former McDonald’s All-American and North Carolina transfer who will be asked to both score and create for others. Same goes for USC transfer McKenzie Calvert, who also was a top-20 player out of high school according to ESPN’s HoopGurlz rankings.

Schneider says sophomore guards Kylee Kopatich and Jayde Christopher also could be in line to take steps forward following up-and-down freshman seasons. Kopatich, a strong spot-up shooter, was overworked last year because of depth issues, with Schneider vowing to cut down on her minutes. Christopher, meanwhile, has emerged as a team leader following a four-game exhibition trip to Europe over the summer.

One big — and unexpected — loss came in the offseason, as leading scorer Lauren Aldridge announced she was transferring to Missouri. Not only was she the only player to average double-figure scoring (11.1 points ), but the freshman also led KU in assists and three-pointers.

KU’s frontcourt appears to be the team's biggest question mark. Caelynn Manning-Allen returns for her senior season, with Schneider believing he's found a way to better play to her strengths by moving her away from the basket. Senior Jada Brown was solid as a role player last season, while graduate transfers Sydney Umeri (Virginia) and Lisa Blair (Ohio State) were late arrivals to campus in the summer, making it difficult to know how quickly they will contribute.

Jesse Newell: @jessenewell

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