LAWRENCE, Kan. - In the second of a three-part series, the 2013-14 Kansas women's basketball season outlook continues with an in-depth look at the point guards.
The most experienced of the three position groups, the Jayhawk point guards welcome back CeCe Harper, Natalie Knight and Lamaria Cole to manage the ball-handling duties for the 2013-14 season.
Kansas head coach Bonnie Henrickson will use a point-guard by committee approach to account for the loss of Angel Goodrich (2008-13), who was drafted by the Tulsa Shock as the 29th overall pick in the WNBA Draft. Goodrich, KU's all-time assists leader, was named a Women's Basketball Coaches Association All-America Honorable Mention and was the 26th player in Kansas history to reach the 1,000-point club (1,262). Henrickson realizes that she may never coach another player like Goodrich, so her goal for this year's group is to get them to play to their strengths and reach their own potential.
Knight, who returns to the lineup after missing the team's last 15 games with a torn ACL in her right knee, is the most experienced of the group, with 53 starts over her first two years at KU. Knight averaged 8.3 points and 1.8 steals in 19 games for the Jayhawks last season. Her on-ball defensive ability will be key for the Jayhawks' defensive scheme in 2013-14. On offense, Henrickson will count on Knight to control the tempo, take care of the ball and run the offense in the half-court when she is at the point.
Contrasting Knight's style of play, Cole brings speed and quickness to the position. Henrickson is expecting Cole to be the team's primary ball-handler in 2013-14, after seeing action in just seven games in 2012-13. Cole will look to push the ball in the open court and get the team into transition, where she can utilize her great court vision.
Harper, the lone fourth-year player on the 2013-14 roster, will add depth to the position that she has playing sparingly since arriving in Lawrence. Much like Cole, Harper will push the ball in transition with her speed and quickness, but also has the ability to run the offense in the half court. Harper will look to build on her successful 2012-13 campaign where she set career-highs in points (21), three-point field goals (three), assists (seven), steals (five) and blocked shots (two).Â Â Â
Head coach Bonnie Henrickson
On if she had to change the offense to accommodate losing Angel Goodrich:Â
"There are some things that we will tweak what we have. It will be more so tweaking some of the things that we have in (the offense already). Angel shrunk our playbook because she could just go make plays. Right now, the most important thing for Lamaria (Cole) to do is to take care of the ball and make good decisions. She has playmaking ability, from a speed and quickness standpoint, but she's not there yet and I don't expect her to be. The last thing we want to do is push that (to) where we are turning the ball over because she is trying to make plays that Angel made and she's not ready to do that. That's okay, we want to push the tempo and she's quick and has great speed, but she also needs to make good decisions and run the team on the offensive end. There will be pieces that are different. Right now I'm looking at the guard group and thinking, 'Who is going to come off some of the things that Monica (Engelman) came off?' Where do we need to tweak some of that? How are we going to score in similar ways that we have in the past, or do we need to change quite a bit? We have had some kids that have stepped up off ball screens and off the drive. When Carolyn (Davis) went down the year before, Chelsea was in that role, so that's really not new for her and it won't feel as strange to her. She wasn't in that role last year, because Carolyn got all of those touches. The point guard position will be the most obvious, but, by committee, Natalie is going to take care of the ball and run good half-court offense. So do you run some different things with Mari (Lamaria Cole) at the point than you do with Natalie at the point? Yes and then CeCe can play sparingly as well."
On Lamaria's improvement:
"She's gotten a lot better in practice. She has had a really good fall. The good thing for Lamaria (Mari) is that she's got a better tank this year than it was last year. She is the one who wins all the sprints and competes to win every one and takes a lot of pride in that. I think she might need more of a mental sub than a physical sub. For some kids it's physical, they can't play that hard for that long. I think to give her a blow and let her catch her breath and look at it for a bit will be big, which is normal. How Angel could play, make so few mistakes, play that long and play that hard - there aren't a lot of players that can do it at that level. There is no expectation out of the gate for Lamaria to be Angel. I need Mari to be the best Mari that Mari can be. She has a chance to be really special, but she's a work in progress, as all of these guys are, so I don't want to put too much on her. Every once in a while I will talk to her and I won't compare her to Angel, but sometimes it's a good reference, because she understands. For example, I'll say 'When Angelâ€¦' and she will say, 'You're right, you're right. She didn't try and make that play.' So I tell her, 'Yeah, and you don't either. There is nothing there. Don't try to drive it in that lane, there's nothing there.' So she and I talk like that, but Angel did some things that the good Lord gave her and she ran with it."
On if having Natalie back helps Lamaria:
"It helps her and all of us. The offense is better when Natalie is in the game. Every offense looks better when the ball goes in the hole and right now, she shoots it better than anyone else we have. Natalie brings a stability and calmness (to the offense). Mari is going to need to rely on that and Natalie is going to need to make sure she brings that for Mari. For Lamaria, it gets really emotional when everyone starts yelling for the ball, and young kids do, and sometimes they yell for it and there is no way that it needs to go there. That's oftentimes when she makes mistakes. I have to tell her that you can let them talk to you, but you have to decide there is nothing there. She gets caught up in that sometimes. Oftentimes, when it's loud, she will try and make something happen that's not there, where Angel would say, 'That's fine, it's not there, I'm not going to make a play and control the tempo.' That's what we are working on with Mari."
On CeCe Harper:
"She played a lot of point guard in high school and on her summer team and has played it a little bit here. For her it's kind of the same thing. When you look at Angel and the amount of touches she had and the amount of time she had the ball, she was going to make a play a higher percentage of time than I need from these two (Harper and Cole). Probably my biggest challenge with them early is, I'm not asking you to be Angel. You don't need to go make a play that might not be a play you can make. I might not coach a kid that can make that play again, I don't know, but I don't want for them to think they need to be her. They need to be them. CeCe needs to use her speed and quickness and get us in a half-court offense. Her tendency is to try and make a play when she doesn't need to. She has gotten better. She played really sped up when we started and I had to tell her to slow down and get it to where it needs to be in transition offense. I'm not saying I don't want her to make a play, but I don't want her to feel like they have to make a play the sheer amount that Angel was able to, because they won't be able to. Those plays aren't going to be good for us, because they will probably be a bad play, a bad shot, or a bad turnover, because they are remembering what it looked like when Angel ran that offense and it's not going to look like that all the time."