Thursday, January 26, 2023

Women’s basketball, with a new look, slotted sixth in CAA poll

SportsWomen’s basketball, with a new look, slotted sixth in CAA poll

BY KONNER METZ
Managing Sports Editor




Sarah Jenkins is aware of the expectations placed in front of her after a record-breaking campaign last year by her friend and mentor, now-Arizona State head coach Natasha Adair.

Delaware’s new head coach admits that nerves are present as the dawn of the 2022-2023 women’s basketball season approaches, but that has not stopped her from carrying an immense amount of confidence in a rebuilt Blue Hens roster.

“There’s a ton of nerves stepping into this role, but I do feel like I’m prepared for it and I’ve worked really hard for it,” Jenkins said at Delaware basketball’s Media Day last week. “Just anxious to see how we do, I know we’re going to be great.”

Jenkins spent 2017-2021 in Newark as an assistant and associate coach under Adair, the latter of whom led the program to a CAA title and NCAA tournament berth last spring. After a one-year pit stop at Penn State as an assistant, Jenkins received the call to come to Newark to take over for her former colleague. 

But now, the defending Colonial Athletic Association champions head into the season with a different set of expectations from most programs vying to repeat. Delaware was picked sixth in last week’s CAA Preseason Poll.

Drexel, last year’s runner up, topped the list, and their star guard Keishana Washington was named CAA Preseason Player of the Year. For Delaware, departures of all-conference players such as Jasmine Dickey, Ty Battle and Tyi Skinner leave the team without any individual selections to the preseason all-conference teams.

“This year for us is going to be by committee,” Jenkins said. “There’ll be days where we have different leading scorers every night. What we’re trying to do is work together, share the basketball and play team basketball. And I think that’ll help us significantly with our scoring.”

This season’s roster features a bevy of transfers recruited by Jenkins. Graduate transfer Kharis Idom brings the most experience, starting 76 games at UMass-Lowell the past four years. 6-foot-2-inch center Klarke Sconiers comes to Newark from Minnesota, figuring to play a role down low this season.

Forwards Demi Burdick (East Tennessee State) and Rebeca Demeke (Rhode Island) also joined the team this offseason. Returning junior guard Tara Cousins mentioned the experience of transfers in helping replace the team’s lost leaders from last year.

“Our transfers, I think we need to give them as much credit as possible,” Cousins said. “They’re coming in with a high level of college basketball experience. They bring that maturity and basketball IQ to our team whether they won a championship or not.”

Jenkins pointed to Nakiyah Mays-Prince, a freshman guard from Chicago, Illinois, as a player expected to come on strong this year. Overall, though, the coaching staff is seeking consistency in practice as the season nears.

“Everyday, I feel like somebody’s having a moment, so we’re really working towards getting that consistent player everyday,” Jenkins said.

While Adair took her fast-paced, disruptive approach to Arizona State – along with many of her assistants – Jenkins has a similar philosophy in her defensive approach.

“We want high ball pressure … and we want to fly around. We don’t want to be stuck as robots. I want our kids to have freedom to go for steals and to trap when they want.”

“We want to play up-and-down and get a lot of shots,” Jenkins said of the offensive plan. “I’m okay with early shots in the shot clock if they’re good shots.”

At Media Day, Jenkins said she has talked to men’s head coach Martin Ingelsby some, as she works through the trials of her first preseason leading a college program.

“What I’m coming to grips with as a coach is everyday it may not look great,” Jenkins said. “When you have a new group of people, you have days where it looks messy.”

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