Jayhawk Insider: Dallas Duo

By: Jordan Cronan

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Dallas natives and now Jayhawks, senior Christalah Lyons and freshman Aniya Thomas both had big-time dreams that brought them from the big city to the middle of the basketball state.
“A lot of people from Dallas don’t come to big schools, so it was a big deal for the both of us,” Lyons said. “Coming out of a big city not known for basketball and coming to a state known for basketball, it was a big step for the both of us.”
Both being from the Dallas area, Thomas had heard about Lyons from high school teammates, who had the opportunity to play against her before she went on to play two years at Trinity Valley Community College.
“I had never seen her, but I had heard of Christalah before,” Thomas said. “I had teammates that would always say ‘you have to watch out for Christalah Lyons’ since my school played them before I was there.”
Stepping up and becoming a leader on the court last year for the Jayhawks, Lyons has now taken on a new role – taking Thomas under her wing. Making sure that Thomas and freshman Brooklyn Mitchell have someone to look up to on and off the court.
 From just hearing about Lyons to now learning from her, Thomas sees first hand why her high school teammates always told her to look out for Lyons. Her dominance doesn’t just come from what she can do on the court, but the extra step she takes to be a great teammate off the floor.  
On the court, Thomas has taken note of Lyons’ quick and explosive moves to beat anyone to the rim and going hard each and every day to make herself, but more importantly, her team better.
“It was nice to see her come out from the tip and assert herself and get herself in the game,” head coach Brandon Schneider said. “We are a much better team when she is aggressive.”
 It’s evident that others, especially Thomas, feed off of Lyons’ confidence and enthusiasm from playing well.
In the season’s second and final preseason tune up for the Jayhawks, Lyons made a statement by starting the game with eight of the first 14 points for Kansas and finished the game with 13 points. Having already matched her point total against Fort Hays State, Lyons set the tone for her team that eventually led the Jayhawks to an 87-43 win over Washburn.
Thomas followed Lyons’ lead with 14 points of her own. The duo combined for 25 of the Jayhawks’ 41 points in the first half. Thomas’ breakout game didn’t stop with scoring, but she continued to imitate Lyons’ explosiveness and hustle to bring down three rebounds and two steals.    
Along with Lyons’ toughness and grit, off the court and at practice she is always there for her teammates when they need her most.
“She’s always encouraging and giving positive energy,” Thomas said. “She knows when we are down and picks us right back up.”
Lyons and Thomas’ connection stems deeper than sharing a hometown or a position and has only grown since Thomas arrived to Lawrence to fulfill her dream of playing at Kansas.
Thomas may be following in Lyons’ footsteps, but she has already started to make a name for herself as a Jayhawk.

Kansas begins nonconference play against local foe UMKC on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m., inside Allen Fieldhouse. KU’s matchup with the ‘Roos will air on ESPN+ and the Jayhawk Radio Network.