Weatherford Democrat

October 9, 2013

New, returning All-Americans bolster hopes of WC’s return to national stage

Weatherford Democrat

— Courtesy of Weatherford College

Weatherford College women’s basketball coach and athletic director Bob McKinley smiles and slowly answers after hearing the question _ ‘What’s it like having not one, not two, but THREE All-Americans on your team heading into the season?’

“That’s pretty good stock,” McKinley says, grinning. “But here’s what they always ask me, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ That’s what drives us.”

In other words, accolades from even the recent past, while very nice, don’t win games in the future.

But there’s every reason to believe the Lady Coyotes will once again win many more than they lose this season. The cornerstones of last season’s 25-6 squad that advanced to the second round of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Tournament are back, along with some key new additions.

Sophomore guard Bre Brooks was named both the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player and Newcomer of the Year after leading the league in scoring (17 points per game) and assists (7.6), along with a second-place finish in steals (2.6). 

Also, 6-foot-3 sophomore Itiana Taylor earned first-team All-Conference honors after averaging 14.4 points (fourth in conference) and tops in rebounds (10.7).

Both were also named NJCAA All-Americans.

And if that wasn’t enough to build this season around, McKinley had an All-American transfer to WC. Jacqueline Chandler from Hill has joined the Lady Coyotes. The Cleburne High School product began her college career at TCU before transferring to Hill. She took last season off, but in 2011-12 earned All-American status by finishing second in the conference in scoring (15.0), first in steals (4.2), and first in assists (7.1).

”I don’t want to play a team if they’ve got a better player than Bre,” said McKinley. “And no one on the team runs the floor better than I.T. (Taylor’s nickname).

“Jacqueline can give us the extra at the point guard we didn’t have last year. She’s also a good shooter. The two times we played them (Hill) she hit five and six threes.

“All three of those girls are (NCAA) Division I players.”

Behind the leadership of Brooks and Taylor, last season’s team played national champion Trinity Valley closer than anyone else in the national tournament, falling 75-70. It was the sixth NJCAA Tournament appearance in Weatherford College history and the first since 2004.

It’s understandable that McKinley and the Lady Coyotes faithful believe a seventh trip could be on the horizon this season.

“I think we’re going to have a lot of ways we can go at people,” said McKinley.

Along with Brooks and Taylor, par-time starters Toma Zaleckaite (6-3 post, Lithuania) and Kaylee Brooks (guard, Weatherford) return. Another sophomore, guard Traice McCoy from Fort Worth, transferred in from the University of North Texas.

“One of the really bright spots is Toma. She would hardly shoot last year,” said McKinley. “But she shoots the ball really well, and can be a big help to us. She can score, rebound and she runs well.

“Kaylee’s a good 3-point shooter, and you’ve got to have those. And even though Traice has been out of basketball for a year and a half, she’s got all the tools.”

The list of freshmen include guard Ciara Johnson, Tyler; 6-6 post/forward Zippy Khasoa, Kenya; guard Lou Hawkins, Weatherford; and 6-3 post/forward Ruth Adwar, Kenya.

“The better Zippy gets the more we can do. She is every bit of that 6-6,” said McKinley. “Ruth can run, and she has arms that reach across my office.

“Ciarra is really good around the free throw line. And Lou is definitely going to help us. She passes well and has a good basketball mind.”

As they did last season, the Lady Coyotes will once again run a fast-paced offense and a high-pressure defense.

“There’s no other way to play in this conference,” said McKinley.

As for the conference race, McKinley admits his Lady Coyotes are the team to beat, but he believes the biggest challenge will come from the usual suspects, Collin, McLennan and Temple.

“I’m thinking if you lose a game, it had better be to one of those or you’re in trouble,” he said.

“Everything’s in place for another great season. Now we just have to go out there and play it.”