Lady Bears adjust to limited roster challenges

Baylor junior guard Moon Ursin shoots a basket during Baylor's 83-62 victory over Iowa State on Jan. 28 at the Ferrell Center. Brittney Matthews | Photo Editor

By Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer

Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey was not too happy on Monday as she discussed the NCAA decisions that could force the Lady Bears to play with as few as six players.

Even though the season has yet to begin, it’s hard to avoid looking ahead at the 2021 NCAA tournament, as the 2020 tournament was canceled due to the pandemic. It was recently announced that the men’s tournament will be held in a single location and that the NCAA is in talks with Indianapolis and the state of Indiana to host the tournament. Women’s teams have yet to receive word on their tournament.

“I think that if any year you should separate the men and women on things that you are doing, I’m all for separating,” Mulkey said. “I’ll give you an example: just last week we were told you were going to have to play a game even if you only have six players. Six players? I understand administration wants to put a product on the floor regardless … I think when you deal with the men this year, they have a lot of walk-ons, so you could use six scholarship players and play, and put some of your walk-ons on that bench during the game. You don’t have that in women’s basketball.”

Mulkey alluded to the fact that it may be some time before women’s teams hear about their tournament setup. She noted that the men’s tournament is one of the NCAA’s “breadwinners” and that it was always going to be figured out before the women’s was.

That isn’t to say Mulkey isn’t frustrated with the handling of the season to this point, as she feels the program has been done a disservice by the NCAA at large.

“To ask somebody to play with six players, I don’t think it does justice to the integrity of the game —I’m speaking for my program — nor does it allow you to keep kids healthy and safe,” Mulkey said.

Senior guards Moon Ursin and DiDi Richards have struggled with injury recently, but Ursin has returned to practice with an eye on the upcoming season.

“Right now we’re focusing on things we can control, and that’s practice,” Ursin said. “Preparing for what we can prepare for and that’s our first game in, hopefully, less than a week, so we’re just following in the footsteps of Coach Mulkey, and doing what we need to do.”

While the team has been able to remain focused, Mulkey understands that the situation college sports, and the world at large, is struggling with is by no means an easy one.

“It’s not easy to wake up every day and not know if you’re going to play any games, and not know how many players you’re going to have today, or next week,” Mulkey said. “You try not to focus on that, you try to focus as if everything’s normal for that day, and that’s kind of what we do.”

The injuries to Ursin and Richards have certainly put the team on its heels, and Mulkey and her staff will certainly have to adjust their coaching style to their now-limited roster. Ursin, recently released from concussion protocol, is set to be thrust right back into the fire with a large role on the team.

“My role right now is to be a leader,” Ursin said. “We’re losing a lot on the court, so I have to step up extremely big this year on the defensive end, on the offensive end, but that’s going to come practice by practice.”

Ursin and the Lady Bears will take the court for the first time on Nov. 25, facing Central Arkansas in Waco to open the season.