There are 4,368 lineup combinations available to Wichita State’s women’s basketball team and, given enough time, coach Jody Adams-Birch would probably try evaluate all of them.
The Shockers will certainly achieve only a small percentage in their exhibition opener, but Wednesday’s game against Newman is about finding which players fit best together.
Adams-Birch didn’t have that luxury last year, when WSU was depleted by departures and injuries and there was little mystery about the lineup. Now with 16 players at her disposal, Adams-Birch is ready to explore.
“I’m looking at combinations,” Adams-Birch said. “Who starts the game out for us, who plays with who well. Those things do matter. If they want to play with each other, they communicate, they play hard, leave it all out there. So there’s combinations you’re still looking for.”
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Those efforts will eventually lead to a trimming of the rotation, but for now everyone has at least a chance to earn playing time. That chance, for each player, has risen or fallen depending on reliability in practice, but a true assessment is best made during a game.
Adams-Birch will be looking for which players are best molded within WSU’s new dribble-drive offense, a faster-paced style that will cater to players’ strengths and, if executed properly, lead to higher-percentage shots.
“I think you would love to be in a situation where you are able to give everybody a look in a game setting,” Adams-Birch said. “The good thing about practice is, they get a look every day. Where we chart things is from when we’re playing fast, and 3-on-2 situations, who produces offensively and defensively.
“… At the end of the day, if we can be in a situation where everybody gets to play, that would be great.”
The Shockers will fall well short of 4,368 lineups on Wednesday – because such a number is impossible within 40 minutes and because 5-foot-5 junior point guard Keke Thompson has shown herself too important to leave the floor often.
Thompson, a junior-college transfer from Alabama, has shown leadership qualities in early practices, as well as a capability to run WSU’s offense. Or, since the offense is still new and untested, Thompson’s best asset may be her adaptability.
“We’ve been watching her for two years, and we haven’t had a player similar to her before,” Adams-Birch said. “I would consider her a wiry player that can do a lot of things and a very blessed player with speed and athleticism. I knew she would fit no matter what.”
Newman at WSU women
- When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
- Where: Koch Arena
- Radio: 1410-AM, 93.9-FM