“A lot of newness.”
That is how Kansas women’s basketball coach Brandon Schneider described his team at Wednesday’s 2017-18 media day press conference.
Despite the connotation of inexperience that goes along with it, newness isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the Jayhawks. Having accumulated a 29.7 percent winning percentage and winning just two conference games over the past two seasons, some newness could do Schneider and the Jayhawks a lot of good.
With eight players having departed the program after last season, Kansas returns just seven letter winners. The team welcomed seven newcomers this offseason in the form of four transfers and three high school recruits. This roster turnover has finally given Schneider the chance to coach a team almost entirely made up of players he recruited.
“We’ve overhauled our roster and really feel like we’re in the midst of making some major changes from a cultural standpoint,” Schneider said.
Losing breeds complacency. After four straight losing seasons it would make sense for losing to become the new normal. But Schneider is determined to bring a culture of winning back to the women’s basketball program.
“We have two junior college players that played for the national championship,” Schneider said. “We have high school players that were either conference or state champions.
“[We’re] just trying to bring in kids that are accustomed to winning and that have a very low tolerance for anything short of that.”
Despite the fact that this cultural shift is still a work in progress, Schneider’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by his players.
“I would say with this being his third year as the head coach here, he’s been trying to develop this culture,” said senior guard and reigning Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Jessica Washington.
“We’ve been building on [it] for the last three years, it's just something we’ve been working on and developing, and it really is a major key for us.”
Even with all the new faces on the team, it hasn’t been hard for Schneider to get players to buy into what his team is all about.
“After the summer we’ve had, these new girls are great ... and they’re willing to work hard,” said junior guard Kylee Kopatich. “I think this is probably the best team chemistry we’ve had.”
Schneider will have more talent at his disposal this season than he has ever had at Kansas. The addition of heralded transfer players and the continued development of returning letter winners should make Kansas more competitive than it has been the past two years.
Still, if the Jayhawks want to move out of the cellar of the Big 12 standings, they will need to truly embrace the ideology that Schneider is trying to instill in them.
“Toughness. Togetherness. Wholeness. That's our culture,” said Washington.
Schneider refused to share exactly what his team’s goals were for the year, but he insisted that the Jayhawks are aiming high.
“I think if I were to share those expectations with you I think you’d be surprised at how lofty they are,” he said.
“Those at the top of the mountain didn’t fall there.”
— Edited by Gabrielle Cinnamon