Uncertainty isn’t just reserved for the men’s team this year at Wichita State.
After a forgettable nonconference, Keitha Adams surprised many in her first year by taking a team from the previous regime and leading it to a winning record in the American Athletic Conference.
The good news: Adams has restocked the roster with her own recruits. The bad news: more than 80 percent of last year’s production is gone and nine of WSU’s 15 players are freshmen.
The foundation may very well be set this year for the coming years under Adams, but she doesn’t want to sacrifice winning in the process. WSU hosts an exhibition on Thursday against Missouri Southern State, then opens its season on Nov. 7 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
“It’s an exciting time because we’re young and we’re going to grow and we have so many young players getting better,” Adams said. “We’re being patient with them, but we’re also pushing them. I’m allergic to losing. So at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how young we are, it’s about being great competitors.
Last year the Shockers were powered by the low-post tandem of Rangie Bessard and Angiee Tompkins, who combined to average 30.1 points and 13.2 rebounds. Both graduated and WSU expects to shift the focus of its offense to the perimeter, although Adams is excited about the potential of 6-foot-3 redshirt freshman Asia Henderson.
WSU has a pair of international recruits that should help its guard play immediately in point guard Seraphine Bastin (Belgium) and shooter Carla Bremaud (France). Junior college transfer Maya Brewer adds a scoring punch and a trio of freshman, Jaida Hampton, Shyia Smith and Jada Peacock, have impressed Adams early.
Sabrina Lozada-Cabbage (7.1 points, 4.8 rebounds) and Cesaria Ambrosio (4.3 points, 3.0 assists) are the team’s two seniors and Adams will lean on them, especially in the nonconference, for their consistency and on-court leadership.
“We graduated a lot and we have a lot of new people coming in, so I don’t think anybody really expects us to do much,” Lozada-Cabbage said. “It’s on us to prove people wrong and play with that chip on our shoulder and show people that we do have more than what they think we have.”
WSU was picked to finish 10th in the 12-team AAC by the coaches in the preseason poll, something that has driven Adams in the preseason.
“I wanted to be a part of a hard-working team that was gritty and tough and that’s who we are right now,” Hampton said. “Coach (Adams) is tough and she pushes us harder than any other coach has ever pushed me. That is going to help our entire team because she’s not going to let us fail or let us give up.”
So far in practices Adams’ main critique of her team has been its passiveness chasing loose balls and rebounds. That’s to be expected with two-thirds of the team playing at the Division I level for the first time, but it’s a trait WSU will have to buck before AAC play rolls around.
After barely taking and making any threes last year, expect WSU’s outside shooting to drastically improve. The Shockers are more athletic too, so Adams wants to pick up the pace, press more and turn more defense into offense.
“We have a lot of dogs,” Lozada-Cabbage said. “We will be fun to watch.”
“We have all of the pieces to the puzzle, we’re just young right now,” Hampton added. “By the time we’re done, we’re going to be really, really good.”