During one October practice, Wichita State forward Jyar Francis aggressively drove the lane, was fouled hard, and ended up with a concussion. She didn’t practice again for weeks.
Time to retire the aggressive drive to the lane?
Definitely not. It’s the move Francis calls her greatest offensive threat, but it may be tied with her fearlessness. She can’t wait to get back into the paint, to draw more contact, to be rewarded with free throws.
“I know that’s my game,” said Francis, a 6-foot-1 sophomore. “Getting to the goal has always been my game. Shooting threes has always been something I had in the bag that nobody really expected me to do because I’m a post-up, but getting to the goal has always been my number one, always been my game.”
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The best chance Francis had to display her skills as a freshman came at the beginning of the season, when WSU was short-handed waiting for transfers to become eligible and injured players to become healthy.
Francis started the first three games and four of the first six, averaging 12.7 points and 5.2 rebounds and 28 minutes in those six games. In her debut against Creighton, Francis scored 15 points with eight rebounds, and she was rewarded with Missouri Valley Conference player of the week honors.
“I never thought it would be easy, I always thought it would be challenging,” Francis said. “I feel like if I just come with the energy and intensity that they expect me to come with, I’m going to have a great year this year.”
After the Shockers’ reinforcements came, Francis didn’t start another game, and she didn’t score in double figures again. She ended up as WSU’s fourth-leading scorer at 5.5 points even though she averaged 14 minutes.
Francis’ numbers per 30 minutes were 11.6 points and 5.9 rebounds, but she didn’t reach that level of playing time because five Shockers played at least that many minutes.
Her skills are valuable, though. She had 18 steals and used defense to guide her scoring. Francis made nearly 33 percent of her three-pointers, which led WSU players who made more than one.
“Jyar’s a scorer,” WSU coach Jody Adams-Birch said. “She wants to shoot the ball. She wants the ball in her hands, all of us know that. As she continues to grow her minutes and get healthy in practice, I think she’s going to become a very strong point for us and be someone who is very tough to guard.”
Francis welcomes any role, a mentality she uses in life away from basketball.
During the summer, her home in Hammond, La. was badly damaged by flooding, and she spent time at home to help her family of 10 recover – physically and emotionally.
Adams-Birch called Francis’ summer, and her subsequent injury issues, life changing. Francis, though, recounts trying times with optimism. Her family didn’t let her stay in Louisiana because it interrupted her basketball development, and Francis remains eager and enthusiastic in the face of setbacks.
“What keeps me upbeat, I would say my teammates,” Francis said. “They remind me why I’m here, how I’m got here. It’s just, I’m blessed. I’m here to do a job, one of the few that got picked to do it, so they remind me I’m blessed. All the stuff I went through in the offseason, they keep me high-tempo and just remind me I’m blessed.”