Jayhawk Insider: Senior Send Off
By: Dayton Hammes
With nearly half of the roster making up the 2019 senior class, there was no denying that Senior Day would be a bittersweet one.
This class, composed of six seniors, has been with head coach Brandon Schneider from the start with two players beginning with Schneider during their freshman year and the other four joining the Jayhawks out of their respective junior colleges in 2017.
Senior Day was emotional for many of the seniors, all of whom had family or friends present for the milestone, while for others the reality of their collegiate careers coming to a close hasn’t hit yet.
“It was exciting for me because I’ve been here for four years and it was a day to recognize that accomplishment,” Chelsea Lott said.
For Christalah Lyons, her last game in Allen Fieldhouse hasn’t quite come to reality to her yet.
“I’m just waiting for that moment to hit,” Lyons said.
No matter how they reached this point, whether it was two years or four – this group will be remembered forever.
Broken records. Academic achievements. Tournament victories. All-Big 12 honors. Rivalry wins.
These are just a few of the things that this senior class has accomplished in their short time in a Jayhawk uniform.
Kylee Kopatich is one of the two four-year seniors on this year’s roster and became just the 29th Jayhawk to score 1,000 career points, following one of her role models, former Jayhawk Natalie Knight.
“It means a lot (to hit 1,000 points right after Knight) because I’ve always looked up to her and just kind of followed her footsteps in every aspect at this point,” Kopatich said. “We’re still staying connected and it’s nice having her around and being so close with her.”
A few weeks later, the Jayhawks accomplished another feat that had never been done in the Brandon Schneider era. A tournament championship.
The Jayhawks took home the Duel in the Desert tournament title in front of Brianna Osorio’s hometown crowd in Las Vegas. That win provided the Jayhawks had the confidence they needed to close our nonconference play, entering Big 12 play.
“When we won the tournament in Vegas this year – that was the best moment,” Austin Richardson said. “It just gave us the momentum to work harder because we got that win out there.”
Entering their final season one of the many things that this class wanted to accomplish was a win over their rival. After several close games with Kansas State, the seniors had always fallen just short of beating the Wildcats.
Osorio recalls the feeling of playing Kansas State at home her junior year in an overtime thriller as “amazing.” Despite the loss, Osorio described the Allen Fieldhouse environment as one of the best that she had experienced.
“We hit four threes back-to-back,” Osorio recalled. “I couldn’t really feel the people in the gym until then. It was just amazing – I can’t explain the feeling, but it was great. You just had to be there.”
After coming up short to the Wildcats twice as juniors, both at home and in the 2018 Big 12 Championship, the Jayhawks were finally victorious in 2019 – one of the last times they would play K-State.
“It was something that we hadn’t done before,” Lott said. “We all really wanted it, so it was great to finally have that experience.”
The Jayhawks hadn’t beaten the Wildcats in Manhattan since 2014 and the Kansas seniors were hungry to get that Sunflower Showdown victory before they graduated. Beating K-State in Bramlage Coliseum was just the icing on the cake.
“Beating K-State at their place was by far one of my favorite memories from this year,” Kopatich said. “It was a fun environment to be in because we kept the crowd quiet. We deserved that win and our fans deserved that win for sure.”
While these are just some of the things that the Jayhawks have achieved – their time at Kansas is only the beginning. Many of these athletes will go onto continue their careers in basketball, whether that is playing professionally or getting into coaching.
Kopatich, Richardson, Lyons and Osorio are all open to the idea of continuing their careers in basketball.
“I’m looking forward to seeing wherever basketball takes me if that’s the path that I choose to take or continuing a new chapter in my life,” Osorio said.
Others are looking toward life beyond basketball.
“I’m looking forward to figuring out what I really love outside of basketball,” Lott said. “Basketball is all I’ve ever known. Sports are all I’ve ever known. So figuring out what I want to do, what I want to be outside of basketball and as a person – I think that will be a fun experience.”
While their time in a Kansas uniform is quickly coming to an end, these six seniors have represented Kansas with great pride and have left a lasting impression on the Kansas women’s basketball program and its fans, young and old.
“I always feel proud when I come out after games and there’s a bunch of kids just waiting there for my signature,” Sara Boric said.
Not only have young fans looked up to these seniors, but the underclassmen on the roster, too.
The advice the Kansas seniors have for the underclassmen? Work hard, leave it all out there and never give up.
“Leave it all on the court because these years go by fast,” Richardson said. “You’ll never get those experiences back.”
As fast as time has gone, the leadership, character and dedication of this group of seniors will be remembered for years to come. Although, the end is near, these six will always be Jayhawks for life.
Thank you, seniors.
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