‘I really enjoy being here’: DiJonai Carrington brings experience to the rim

Baylor guard DiJonai Carrington, center, attempts a basket over Kansas forward Tina Stephens, right, in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Feb.4, 2021, in Waco, Texas. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald, via AP)

By Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer

Around this time a year ago, Baylor graduate guard DiJonai Carrington wasn’t playing basketball.

In her last year at Stanford, Carrington played just five games, as injury shortened her final season in Palo Alto, Calif. Now she’s the second leading scorer on one of America’s best teams. The road to this point was by no means an easy one, even if the decision on Baylor was.

“I tried to talk to the coaches as much as I could,” Carrington said. “Just see who I felt a genuine connection with, which team I could see myself fitting into their system the best. I watched a lot of film and ultimately just made the decision off of that.”

When a player decides to transfer, they go through something of a second recruiting process, not unlike the one they undergo in high school. However, 2020 didn’t make things any easier for players trying to find a change of scenery.

“The process was actually really difficult, especially during the pandemic and the start of the pandemic when things were so, so, so, so tight,” Carrington said. “I made that decision to transfer around April, right after everything had been shut down. It was just hard to navigate, because I wasn’t able to visit, wasn’t able to talk to players, wasn’t able to really get a feel.”

Once Carrington was at Baylor and on the court, she was a force to be reckoned with. Her experience at the guard position makes her an efficient scorer, as she’s failed to reach double digit points only four times this year.

Even before the season, Carrington had begun to receive national recognition. She was named to the Ann Meyers Drysdale award watchlist for 2021, an honor given to the nation’s best shooting guard. Head coach Kim Mulkey also had high praise for the veteran guard early in the year.

“With Carrington, you see experience,” Mulkey said. “You see a strong perimeter player who can shoot the three, who can post you up, who’s a strong rebounder. She’s defending harder than she probably ever has. I think the experience and being comfortable after just now getting here is going to be something you notice.”

Carrington fit like a glove on the court, averaging over 12 points, four rebounds and two assists a game, but the transition from California to Texas was a little different for the star guard.

“I had no idea what I was really getting myself into,” Carrington said. “I’d been to Waco one time and that was when we played Baylor … my sophomore year. When you travel for a game, you’re not really seeing the city. You’re going to the hotel, going to the gym, back to the hotel. It was a complete culture shock for me, honestly.”

Being somewhere new hasn’t necessarily been a bad thing, though, as Carrington has found a lot of things to enjoy in Waco, especially on the basketball court.

“I think it’s been cool and exciting to learn a completely new system,” Carrington said. “I’m not sure if it’s Baylor, or Coach Mulkey, or the girls or what exactly, but it’s been really cool … I really enjoy being here, and this is a great spot for me to finish out.”