By Ben Everett | Sports Writer
Baylor women’s basketball has reached the Elite Eight in four straight NCAA Tournaments, but only three players on the current team have participated in multiple Elite Eight runs.
The Lady Bears, consisting of 10 players, have only one junior and two seniors returning from the 2017 Big 12 regular season Champions roster.
If this year’s team is going to be one of the last four standing, junior center Kalani Brown will need to continue her stellar play.
Brown, an All-American selection last year, was chosen as Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year.
The 6-foot-7 Slidell, La. ,native was a dominant force last season, averaging 15.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game for the Lady Bears while shooting 67.9 percent from the field.
Head coach Kim Mulkey said Brown has established her presence on the block, but she needs to continue improving every area of her game.
“She’s proven herself,” Mulkey said. “Now the challenge with Kalani is to make sure you’re not content. I still think she hasn’t touched the surface of what she can be as a basketball player.”
Despite all the attention, Brown insists that her No. 1 priority is team success and making sure the freshmen get acclimated.
“I’m just taking it one practice at a time,” Brown said. “Getting better, getting the freshmen better. It’s not about the accolades. It’s about the team.”
Senior point guard Kristy Wallace will be tabbed with leading the offense for the Lady Bears.
Wallace ended last season on a sour note with a five-foul, seven-turnover performance in the 94-85 overtime loss to Mississippi State in the Elite Eight.
Mulkey said Wallace can’t seem to let that game go, but that it drives her.
“She’s one of our leaders,” Mulkey said. “She’ll never forget that last game because competitors don’t. It wasn’t one of her best ones. You want her to flush it because you don’t want it to devastate her. You want it to motivate her, and I think it will.”
Wallace led the team in assists and steals last season, putting up 5.6 and 1.3 averages, respectively.
Wallace said the strong relationships built between the upperclassmen are beneficial for on-court chemistry.
“I love going into war with these girls,” Wallace said. “I know they have my back; I’ve got their back. Knowing that out there on the court, it helps us play better.”
Senior forward Dekeiya Cohen only played 12.7 minutes per game last season, starting in only eight games. Mulkey said Cohen will start more games and play a significant role this season.
“I think Dekeiya Cohen will have a great senior year,” Mulkey said. “More is going to be asked and expected of Dekeiya Cohen at two positions, the three and the four. If Dekeiya can have a great year I think we’ll have a good team.”
Cohen said she is ready to take on that role, having had experience in practice throughout her three years at Baylor.
“I think I’m ready to take that on,” Cohen said. “Since I’ve been here I’ve had a lot of experience at both positions. I think my senior year it’s all going to come together and I’ll be efficient at both positions.”
The Lady Bears take on Tarleton State in an exhibition game at 7 p.m. Oct. 31 at the Ferrell Center.