Lady Bears, Griner to shoot for national title next season

No. 0 guard Odyssey Sims dribbles the ball around a Green Bay defender during the Sweet 16. Makenzie Mason | Lariat Photographer
No. 0 guard Odyssey Sims dribbles the ball around a Green Bay defender during the Sweet 16.
Makenzie Mason | Lariat Photographer

By Daniel Wallace

Coming off a school-record 34 wins and just three losses, the Lady Bears had a 2010-11 season to remember.

As a reward for their record-setting season, the Lady Bears received accolades across the board. As voted on by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, junior 6-foot-8 center Brittney Griner was named National Defensive Player of the Year, thanks in large part to the nation’s best 170 blocks.

She was also an AP All-American first-team selection, while teammates Melissa Jones and Odyssey Sims received honorable mentions.

Sims, now a sophomore, was tabbed as the National Freshman of the Year after leading the Big 12 in 3-point field goal percentage at .456. The players were taught and motivated by the Kim Mulkey, who won National Coach of the Year.

The team spent seven weeks boasting the No. 1 overall ranking in the AP Top 25 poll before a loss at Texas Tech in mid-February. When it came to the NCAA tournament, the Big 12 champions were one of the final eight teams competing for the national title.

After losing the first three meetings, the eventual national champions Texas A&M Aggies beat the Lady Bears 58-46 in the Dallas regional.

Although the 2010-11 season ended with disappointment for the Lady Bears, they have high hopes for the 2011-12 season and are poised for success. The team will miss graduated seniors Whitney Zachariason and Jones. Jones was popular for her hustle and leadership on and off the court.

No. 32 forward Brooklyn Pope shoots the ball. The Lady Bears defeated Green Bay but lost to eventual national champion Texas A&M in the next round.
Makenzie Mason | Lariat Photographer

With only two seniors leaving the team, the 2011 recruiting class has just one member. The team will welcome incoming 6-foot-4 freshman center Sunejiro Agbuke from San Antonio. Mulkey said she’s excited for what Agbuke will bring to the program.

“With Sune’s size, she is a big presence in the paint. She has great hands for a big girl. Sune utilizes her size to get rebounds and has a very soft touch on her shot,” Mulkey said.

Agbuke will join a team that is hungry for more success and has the ultimate goal of winning a national championship in 2012.

“We did some great things this past season, but that makes all of us even hungrier to get better individually and as a
team,” Sims said.

Griner said the team has become thirstier after experiencing the Final Four in the 2009-10 season and failing to make it back this previous season. The thirst is what will keep her motivated this summer, as she will work on weight lifting and focus on keeping her body healthy.

For Sims, the key to repeating the program’s success in recent years starts in practicing every day.

“[It] starts with two hours on the floor,” she said. “If one person doesn’t bring it, that’s one day we’ve wasted that we didn’t make the team better.”

The team’s official practices will begin in the fall and they will be the starting point in what the Lady Bears hope to be a
championship season.

With a strong nucleus of returning players, a big new presence in the lineup, and a hunger to win that surpasses all, the Lady Bears are aiming have another season not soon forgotten.