Oct. 11, 2006
An abundance of newcomers, of both coaches and players, gives Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey moments of excitement and anxiety. Her mind should be eased somewhat since both new coaches have extensive recruiting contacts and the incoming freshman class has been ranked as one of the nation's best and most definitely the best in Lady Bear history.
Two new coaches have joined the staff since the 2005-06 season concluded. Karen Aston came on board as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator, while Damion McKinney, the most recent addition, joined the program in mid-August. They join Jennifer Roberts and Johnny Derrick who are both in their seventh year as a part of Coach Mulkey's staff.
Aston, who was an assistant coach at Baylor from 1994-96, returned to Waco after spending two years at North Texas and the past eight seasons (1998-2006) at the University of Texas, including the past six as associate head coach. Prior to her arrival on the Baylor campus, she had served as the Longhorns' basketball recruiting coordinator where she excelled in both recruiting and on-court coaching.
"Anyone who follows basketball knows how respected Karen is in recruiting, both on the local and national level," Mulkey said. "Karen will be invaluable as we continue to build this program; this is a great hire for women's basketball at Baylor University."
McKinney, a Waco native, came to the Lady Bear program from the Dallas-based DFW Elite Basketball organization where he was the program's recruiting director. In addition, he has coached at the high school level, most recently as an assistant boys coach at Dallas' Sunset High School. "Damion is a local young man that will bring a lot of new energy to our program. He has expressed an eagerness to learn and a willingness to work hard," said Mulkey. "He has a strong background in AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) basketball and his experience and contacts in that arena bring an added dimension to our recruiting," she added.
With only three upperclassmen on the squad and one of those being a newcomer, leadership is a big question mark for this year's team. Will junior point guard Angela Tisdale (Austin, Texas/Del Valle HS), senior LaToya Wyatt (Fort Worth, Texas/McLennan CC/L.D. Bell HS) and senior transfer Bernice Mosby (Brooksville, Fla./University of Florida/Hernando HS) provide the nine underclassmen with the leadership necessary for this young team to reach its goals? Time will tell.
Tisdale, a two-year starter, enters her junior season as one of two returning starters off last year's NCAA Sweet 16 squad. The 5-5 Austin, Texas, native averaged 11.7 points and 5.8 assists a game last year. Her scoring average ranked No. 2 on the Baylor squad, behind two-time Kodak All-American Sophia Young. Tisdale's assist average also placed her among the Big 12 leaders.
"Now is the time for Angela, as the point guard, to step up and lead this team. She has matured as a person and improved her game so much since coming to Baylor, I know she's ready to accept that challenge," said Mulkey.
Wyatt, a 5-7 guard, is one of only two active players, Tisdale being the other, that own 2005 NCAA and Big 12 championship rings. The extremely quick, defensive specialist from Fort Worth knows the commitment and dedication required to help keep Baylor among the nation's elite teams and is intent on "leading by example."
Despite technically being a newcomer, Mosby, a 6-1 forward transfer from the University of Florida and a candidate for Big 12 Newcomer of the Year honors, will be looked to fill some big shoes. Mosby has a season of Lady Bear practices under her belt and was introduced to the program's style of play by playing daily against former standouts Young and Abiola Wabara. As a junior at Florida Mosby averaged a team-leading 15.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 30.3 minutes a game. During her two and a half seasons with the Gators she amassed 1,124 points and 625 rebounds en route to 2003 SEC All-Freshman team honors, 2004 SEC Sixth Woman of the Year kudos and 2005 second-team All-SEC recognition.
Nine underclassmen make up over half of this season's roster. Three sophomores Jessica Morrow (Humble, Texas/Humble HS), Rachel Allison (Jonesboro, Ark./Jonesboro HS) and Jhasmin Player (Bay City, Texas/Bay City HS) all earned considerable playing time as rookies a year ago.
Morrow, a 6-2 forward, started 18 of Baylor's 33 games as a freshman. She logged over 20 minutes an outing and averaged 7.6 points and 3.1 rebounds a game while registering nine double-digit scoring efforts including a career-high 16 points in Baylor's NCAA second-round victory over New Mexico.
Allison developed into an aggressive rebounder and will be looked upon to continue in that mode this season as well as increase her offensive output. Although not an official statistic, if a stat were kept for tie ups, the 6-1 forward/post would certainly hold the Baylor record. With three games as a starter and an appearance in all 33 games last season, Allison gained the confidence and skill to contend for a starting role this season. She averaged 5.2 points and 4.7 rebounds in 17.6 minutes of action per contest.
Player, a 5-10 guard, averaged 12.1 minutes of action a game and appeared in 32 contests. She registered 43 assists and 42 steals while averaging 3.4 points a game.
Baylor's seven newcomers, who include six freshmen, were dubbed the nation's No. 1 recruiting class by the All Star Girls Report. Danielle Wilson (Bay Shore, N.Y./St. John the Baptist), Whitney Jones (West Monroe, La./West Monroe HS), Jessika Bradley (Sacramento, Calif./Sacramento HS), Latara Darrett (Chino, Calif./IMG Academy [FL]), Kaitlin Oberg (West Islip, N.Y./St. John the Baptist) and Haylee Abbe (Waco, Texas/Robinson HS) all attended Baylor summer sessions and participated in the Lady Bears' strength and conditioning program.
Wilson, a 6-3 post, is the most decorated Lady Bear recruit. She is the program's first McDonald's All-American recruit and was a Parade Magazine All-American (fourth team) and Street & Smith All-American (fourth team). Wilson averaged 29.1 points, 20.2 rebounds, 5.5 blocks, 3.4 assists and 3.7 steals as a senior and tallied 2,058 points and more than 1,000 rebounds in three prep seasons. In addition, she was a member of the 2005 USA Youth Development Festival's White team that won the silver medal and was a 2006 USA U18 National Team alternate.
Jones comes to Baylor with impressive credentials as well. She was a two-time Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year, joining former LSU star Seimone Augustus as the only other two-time recipient in state history. The 5-5 point guard was a four-time all-state selection and was named Class 5A Most Outstanding Player three straight seasons. She averaged 21.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and four assists a game as a senior and was selected as a Nike High School All-American honorable mention honors.
Bradley, a 6-3 forward, enters Baylor after leading the Sacramento HS Lady Dragons to four league titles and a 2006 state runner-up finish. The four-time first-team All-Capitol League selection and 2006 MVP averaged 24 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks a game as a senior.
Darrett comes to Baylor having played prep ball on both coasts. After playing at Don Lugo HS in Chino, Calif., she played two seasons at Florida's IMG Academy. The 5-10 guard was a two-time Street & Smith All-American and a member of the gold medal team at the 2005 USA Youth Development Festival. Throughout her prep career she totaled over 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, 300 steals and 100 assists.
Oberg, a 6-2 forward, is Baylor's second New York recruit, joining Wilson, a teammate at St. John the Baptist. She helped the Cougars, coached by her father Ted, to three league titles and was named all-league as a senior.
Abbe, a local product, is the first invited non-scholarship student-athlete to play for Coach Mulkey. The 5-10 guard/forward is a versatile athlete who played five sports -- basketball, track, cross country, soccer and volleyball, at nearby Robinson HS. She was named the Waco Tribune-Herald's 2006 CenTex Female Athlete of the Year.
As usual, the coaching staff has assembled a challenging schedule for 2006-07 that features at least 16 home games. Mulkey and the Lady Bears will begin regular season action on Friday, Nov. 10, when they host North Texas at the Ferrell Center in the first round of the Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). Baylor joins 15 other teams in the single-elimination Preseason WNIT which includes 11 teams that played in the postseason last season.
In addition, Baylor will play at least 10 teams and 12 games against teams that participated in 2006 postseason competition. LSU, Southeast Missouri, UCLA, Missouri, Texas A&M and Oklahoma all saw action in the NCAA Tournament while Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska and Iowa State were Postseason WNIT participants.
The Big 12 season begins on Jan. 3 at the Ferrell Center, when Texas Tech comes to town. The Lady Bears will also host Big 12 foes Oklahoma (Jan. 10), 2006 Postseason WNIT champion Kansas State (Jan. 20) and Missouri (Jan. 31) in January. The month of February will feature home games against Iowa State (Feb. 10), Oklahoma State (Feb. 14), Texas (Feb. 18) and Texas A&M (Feb. 25).
The Big 12 schedule sends Baylor on the road to Kansas (Jan. 6), Texas A&M (Jan. 13), Texas (Jan. 24), Oklahoma State (Jan. 27), Nebraska (Feb. 3), Texas Tech (Feb. 7) Colorado (Feb. 21) and Oklahoma (Feb. 28).
No matter how many newcomers dot the Lady Bear roster each season, Mulkey and her staff have been able to produce well-prepared, outstanding teams. In her six seasons at the program's helm, Mulkey has produced six 20-win seasons and propelled the Lady Bears to NCAA and Big 12 championships. Prior to her arrival, Baylor had never been selected to participate in the NCAA Tournament; she's guided it to five. Her 157-45 (.777) career record ranks her No. 7 on the NCAA's winningest active coach list.
"With nine underclassmen and only three upperclassmen, it is critical that our youth mature and learn quickly. Plus, our three upperclassmen have to provide leadership for this young team," said Mulkey.