There was never a next move for Jamillah Bonner because she never needed one.
Bonner was playing high school and junior college basketball with the athleticism of a Division-I player, so mapping out her moves on the court was never required. She just followed where her explosion propelled her and became a star at Southeast High and then Butler Community College.
That would change when she arrived at Wichita State, she knew, but Bonner didn’t comprehend the transformation she would need to make to be a difference-maker for the Shockers.
For her first two months, essentially WSU’s non-conference schedule, Bonner was shooting 36.1 percent with averages of 10.2 points and 3.7 rebounds.
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“I learned that the little things count here,” Bonner said. “In high school or at Butler, it was just go play and use my athletic ability. Here, every little thing I do people know. I have to critique and think of every thing I do. I have to think about my next move.”
As Wichita State stares down another opportunity to extend its program-best 15-game winning streak on Friday night against Southern Illinois at Koch Arena, Bonner isn’t scoring at her old torrid pace, but she is playing the most refined basketball of her career.
After that adjustment period, Bonner has been the best player in the Missouri Valley Conference outside of her teammate, Alex Harden. In WSU’s first seven conference games, all wins, Bonner has registered four 20-point outbursts and is shooting 47.8 percent with averages of 18.3 points and 5.6 rebounds.
“She needed those details in her game to get what we knew all along she would be able to contribute to this team,” WSU coach Jody Adams said. “She was just going to have to change some of her details, and she has done that.”
No longer is Bonner relying solely on her athleticism to best opponents. She is leveraging her speed in new ways, like a stop-and-go move she has added to her offensive repetoire that has been especially devastating.
But it’s not only scoring. She’s learning the importance of spacing on offense, of setting screens and making the pass that leads to the assist. She’s using her body and skills to do things on the court she didn’t know she could even do.
“She started to understand that if it didn’t work, then she needed to find a new way to do it,” Harden said. “She learned she can’t just out-athlete people, she had to make smarter decisions. It’s a learning process.”
The product, which Adams said still isn’t polished, has been the complimentary piece the Shockers needed next to Harden as a reliable scorer.
And as WSU continues to roll, Bonner promises to figure heavily in its chances of a repeat.
This time, Bonner has her next move planned.
“That was the missing piece for me,” Bonner said.