2017-18 Kansas Season Outlook: Senior Class
With its first game of the 2017-18 season just a few days away, Kansas women’s basketball will preview this year’s squad that features seven returning letterwinners and seven newcomers. The third and final installment of the Jayhawks’ season outlook highlights the senior class.
The seniors have the only class for Kansas with all returning members. These four student-athletes will provide an abundance of leadership for head coach Brandon Schneider’s team, both on and off the court.
First up is 2017 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, Jessica Washington. The All-Big 12 Second Team member was poised for another successful season as the Jayhawks’ leader on the court, but an unfortunate season-ending knee injury will keep her sidelined for her senior season.
“It’s disappointing, I feel terrible for her,” Schneider said. “But she’s really had the right kind of mindset and approach, just a few days off of surgery.”
As a junior, Washington led the Big 12 with 19.3 points per game in league action with 16-of-18 double-figure scoring efforts in the process. Her offensive presence was key in the Jayhawks 2016-17 campaign, leading the team with an average of 17.1 points per game.
“We want to give her the ability to have some decisions to make and that starts obviously with trying to put in a waiver for her to get a clock extension and get a sixth year,” Schneider explained. “As soon as we get the waiver in and get an answer from the NCAA then Jess and her family are going to hopefully have the ability to have a choice as to what her future holds.”
A six-foot forward Chayla Cheadle has contributed on and off the hardwood since she first stepped onto campus as a freshman and is looking to continue making an impact in her final season wearing a Jayhawk uniform. The Columbia, Missouri product started all 30 games, scoring 141 points and pulling down a team-best 141 rebounds during her junior season. Cheadle reached career-high marks in both scoring and rebounding during the 2016-17 campaign, netting 21 points (8-of-12) shooting at Memphis (11/20/16) and grabbing 16 rebounds against in-state rival Kansas State (2/25/17).
“She spent a lot of time in the gym over the summer and she’s shooting the ball a lot better (because of that),” Schneider said. “She’s going to be an important piece of our team (this season). We’ll play her a little bit different (than last year) in that we’re going to have her play a couple different spots.”
Two former community college standouts round out Schneider’s senior class for the 2017-18 season.
Eboni Watts, a 5-6 guard, who came to Kansas by way of Tallahassee Community College, appeared in three games, averaging five minutes per game during her first season with Kansas, but Schneider sees a larger role for Watts in her senior season.
“Eboni is another player who has really made significant changes in her body, her strength and conditioning and her approach to that,” said Schneider. “I think that right now Eboni needs to understand that her role could be much different with Jessica’s injury. She’s part of that perimeter group who needs to be ready at a moment’s notice and needs to practice that way.”
A Smith Center, Kansas native Sydney Benoit rounds out the 2017-18 senior class for KU women’s basketball. Benoit helped lead Hutchinson Community College to a pair of national runner-up finishes during her two years with the Blue Dragons. The 5-10 guard played a career-high six minutes against Rhode Island (12/11/16) last year, but Schneider sees a role bigger and similar to Watts’ for Benoit’s final season at KU.
“I think she’s right in that boat with Eboni – their roles can change in a matter of minutes based on fouls, based on injuries and they need to be ready to come in and contribute,” Schneider said.
The Jayhawks will look to follow the Tough and Together mold and leadership that these four seniors helped to create under Schneider all throughout the 2017-18 campaign.
The Jayhawks welcome the Emporia State Hornets for their first of two exhibition games on Sunday, October 29 at 2 p.m. inside Allen Fieldhouse.
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