2017-18 Kansas Season Outlook: Junior Class
LAWRENCE, Kan. – 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 second installment of the Jayhawks’ season outlook highlights the junior class.
Nearly half of KU’s roster is the junior class with six Jayhawks, including four newcomers to the program and two returners.
Kylee Kopatich, a 5-10 guard out of Olathe, Kansas has emerged after two seasons with Kansas. She averaged a team-best 29.2 minutes and totaled 286 points, good enough for second on the team, during her sophomore campaign. Throughout the 2016-17 season, Kopatich had 15 double-digit scoring efforts, including 11 in Big 12 Conference action.
“She’s doing really well on expanding her game and trying to be more versatile,” head coach Brandon Schneider said. “I think she’s really improved in her ability to move on to the next play. As a young player, she struggled with plays that didn’t go her way it got in her head a little bit, but she’s done a much better job of understanding that next play mentality. Obviously, she’s someone that we’re counting on for leadership, but also for production in every phase of the game.”
Six-foot-three center Chelsea Lott looks to increase her role on the Jayhawk roster in the 2017-18 season. As a sophomore, the Fresno, Texas native appeared in 20 games with three starts and scored 21 points and grabbed 33 rebounds.
“She’s in the best shape of her life,” Schneider said. “I’ve had people tell me that they don’t recognize her so she’s worked really hard in that part of her game. We need her down there with that big group because she’s gotten lots and lots of reps over the last few years so it’s good to have her go first in those drills so the other players can see how it’s done.”
Schneider brought in four community college transfers to complete his junior class, the largest class for the Jayhawks. All four will be available to play this season.
The first of the junior newcomers is guard Christalah Lyons. The Dallas, Texas native played two seasons at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas where she led the Cardinals to a 61-10 record, including a 30-6 record during the 2016-17 season that ended in a loss in the national championship game. Lyons averaged 11.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game in her final season as a Cardinal.
“You just don’t recruit junior college players with the idea that they’re not going to play,” Schneider said. “Christalah’s our point guard, especially with Jessica’s injury, going down and I think that she knows that.”
Lyons is prepared to step into a vocal leadership role in her first season with the Jayhawks.
“She’s a really quiet kid, but I think she is learning that she has to be vocal when she’s on the court, she’s got to command her troops,” Schneider said. “She’s a much better shooter and finisher around the rim, other than Jess, than who we’ve had here in the last few years. She is going to be a player that we look to help fill that scoring void that we lose with Jess this year.”
Six-foot forward Austin Richardson, a Lee’s Summit, Missouri native, joins the Jayhawks from just down the road at Johnson County Community College. Richardson left the Cavaliers with numerous accolades including NJCAA All-America First Team honors, a Kansas Jayhawk Conference MVP title and is one of only four JCCC players to record over 800 points and 500 rebounds in their career.
“Austin is a player who we recruited to come in and really impact our team in a positive way. I think with Jessica’s injury she becomes that much more important,” Schneider said. “It’s looking like we’re going to have to play her at a couple positions and I know that she can guard in our league and rebound in our league. She’s got to continue to find her niche within our offense, but she was recruited with the idea that she would come in and really provide us with some good minutes.”
Brianna Osorio, a 5-8 guard from Las Vegas, Nevada is another junior college standout who Schneider expects to have a large role on Kansas’ 2017-18 squad. During her time at the College of Southern Idaho, Osorio was named a NJCAA All-American and Region 18 Player of the Year. As a sophomore, she averaged 15.4 points, 5.9 rebound and 3.9 steals per game.
“She has a really good feel for the game, a very high IQ and good vision,” said Schneider. “She’s a player who’s going to have to play more point guard now. She won’t be our primary point guard, but I think whenever Christalah is not in the game, I think that’s a role that Bri is going to have to take on, kind of that combo guard role. She’s going to have to shoulder a little bit more of the scoring load. She’s a really good defender with long arms and she’s going to play a bunch for us. She’s going to have a lot to do with the success of our team.”
The final member of the junior class is Sara Boric, a native of Kator Varos, Bosnia. After spending one season at North Carolina State, Boric joined the Northeast Oklahoma A&M roster where she started all 32 games as a sophomore. Her large presence at the center position helped NEO to a 28-3 record, an OCAC championship, a Regional II championship and an appearance in the NJCAA National Tournament in 2017.
“She’s in the competition for minutes at the post position,” Schneider said. “Sara wasn’t here in the summer so I think she’s playing a little bit of catch up not only from a conditioning standpoint, but also from a knowledge standpoint and understanding offensively and defensively some of the things that we do in the summertime, so she’s playing catch up.”
On Thursday, Kansas women’s basketball will feature the senior class in its final installment of the 2017-18 season outlook series.
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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