National champs back on the courtOct. 28, 2005
by JORDAN DANIEL, sports writer
Head Coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson and the defending champion Lady Bears basketball team are gearing up for another title run, but the players recognize this year will be an entirely new experience.
"Being local celebrities and all that was last year's team," junior forward Abiola Wabara said. "We don't really have time to think about last year because we have to get ready to build something new."
Wabara returns at the forward position for Mulkey-Robertson after averaging 5.5 points and 3.6 rebounds last season. She was also a member of the Tempe All-Region team after leading the Bears defensively in the NCAA tournament.
"We have a lot of new people and much less experience," Wabara said. "There's going to be a lot of mistakes by the young players, and we're going to have to build our chemistry all over again."
Joining Wabara as a returning starter is senior guard Chameka Scott. Scott averaged 7.8 points per game last season and was second on the team in 3-pointers made, steals and blocks. Scott recognizes that with mounting success comes increased pressure, but she does not let it get to her.
"Everyone loved the first one so much that naturally that's just what they're looking for," Scott said. "Realistically, we're just trying to put ourselves in position again to have a great season and do what we're capable of doing. That team last year was a national championship team and to be able to do that again would say a lot."
Higher expectations from fans and media are not all the Lady Bears have to contend with this season. As the reigning national champions, the Lady Bears' opponents place a bull's-eye on their back. Playing the defending national champions could make or break an opponent's season.
"I think the program does have a bull's-eye on its back, but at the same time we've always been like that," Scott said. "People have been out to get Baylor before we were national contenders. It's just part of the game and it won't be a problem for us."
Senior forward Sophia Young is the last of the three returning seniors.
The West Indies native was named Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year as voted on by the coaches. The All-American and National Player of the Year candidate highlights a team with seven returning letterwinners.
Young was an unheralded recruit when she graduated from Evangel Academy in Shreveport, La., but, Young quickly matured into a force to be reckoned with in the Big 12.
Young enjoys the positive exposure and recognition Baylor received because of the Lady Bears' success.
"The best part about it is that there isn't all this negative talk about Baylor anymore. It's more positive," Young said. "It's a good thing because not a lot of people know about Baylor, and also its not just Connecticut and Tennessee that win national championships anymore."
Key reserves also return to anchor the Lady Bears. Sophomore guards Chisa Ononiwu and Angela Tisdale, junior guard Latoya Wyatt and senior guard Jordan Davis all return to action this fall.
Even though the Lady Bears only return seven players with collegiate playing experience, Scott does not feel it will affect their ability to compete.
"Depth shouldn't be an issue," she said. "Realistically, you only play about an eight-play rotation anyway. Once we find our eight people, we should be fine.
Newcomers this year include four freshmen and one transfer from the University of Florida.
Brooksville, Fla., native Bernice Mosby will sit out the 2005-2006 season after transferring from Florida. In her two seasons for the Gators, Mosby averaged 15.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
Freshmen post players Tricia Abbott and Rachel Allison will provide much-needed depth at that position. Guards Jessica Morrow and Jhasmin Player will be counted on to contribute in the backcourt.
"The freshman are coming along very well," Scott said. "They had to hit the ground running with us because we didn't take the time to stop and baby them because we can't afford to. They're adjusting and we're taking the time to get the assimilated as quickly as possible."