Women’s basketball returns experienced from rebuilding season


Matt Crow

Wichita State guard Jaleesa Chapel goes for a layup against Newman.

Despite finishing last season with an 8-22 record and an eighth-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference, Wichita State women’s basketball is entering the 2016-17 season with optimism.

All of the players on last year’s roster returned and five players have been added for more depth. The Shockers are predicted to finish fifth in the MVC, but having more experience than any other team in the conference could result in a higher finish.

“We had a very young team, very inexperienced team last year,” head coach Jody Adams-Birch said. “We could have very easily been a .500 team if we had that experience (last year). Now we’re a year older and have veterans that have experienced tight, tough games.”

Junior forward Rangie Bessard returns after leading the team in rebounding and scoring last season. She averaged 15.5 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game to earn Honorable Mention All-MVC honors last season.

The Shockers are using a new offensive system this season with a four guard out and one forward in style of play. Adams-Birch said that along with Bessard, junior forward Angiee Tompkins, who earned NJCAA All-American honors last season, will be pivotal in that role.

“One of my positions on this team is to rebound,” Bessard said. “There’s definitely some things that we still need to work on, and myself with finishing in traffic and not fading away.”

Senior guard TaQuandra Mike will help the Shockers in guard scoring again. After averaging 12.5 points per game last year, Mike was sidelined for the team’s exhibition games because of an injury.

Even in Mike’s absence, the Shockers’ guards lead the team to a 58-49 victory over Newman University and a 67-65 win over Cameron, with junior guard Diamond Lockhart knocking in the game-winning layup.

Lockhart averaged 7.2 points per game and led the team in assists with 77 during the 2015-16 season after sitting out the prior year due to NCAA transfer rules.

“(Our guards) try to push the tempo fast,” Lockhart said. “We try to go in less than 3-4 dribbles and try to finish at that tempo. Setting that tempo gets us going.”

Despite losing starting veteran guard Jaleesa Chapel for the remainder of the season due to a torn ACL, the Shockers will have junior college transfer Keke Thompson to lead from the point guard position.

After leading Shelton State to a conference title, the Montgomery, Alabama native helped the Buccaneers to a 34-2 record and a third place finish in the NJCAA national tournament. Thompson averaged 11.5 points per game during the team’s two exhibition wins against Newman and Cameron.

“These guys look to her as a leader and love playing with her because of her abilities,” Adams-Birch said. “She’s been very impressive. She’s locked up that (point guard) spot.”

The Shockers are facing one of the toughest schedules in program history by matching up with five teams that made the NCAA tournament a year ago.

WSU plays Elite 8 participant Stanford in the Cancun Challenge in Cancun, Mexico before playing Purdue, which qualified for March Madness as an at-large bid.

Along with traveling to Missouri on December 9, the Shockers face South Dakota State on December 21 before heading into conference play.

“What this team wants to do is to gain every day,” Adams-Birch said. “Playing some of the best that have the experience of winning will tell this team a lot. Only time will tell us what we will be like when we do go to Cancun.”

WSU opens up its season against Creighton at 2:05 p.m. Sunday at Charles Koch Arena.