Diamonds in the rough
Bill Peterson | On 27, Jan 2013
With dynamite Diamond Ford leading the way, the Bobcat women’s basketball team has a chance at making the NCAA tournament.
by BILL PETERSON
It isn’t often that a program in any sport upgrades its conference and is immediately thought to be in the middle of the competition.
But the Texas State women’s basketball team goes to the WAC with a fair amount of acclaim. After finishing 17-14 in Zenarae Antoine’s first year as head coach in 2011-12, the Bobcats are expected to finish in the middle of the WAC pack in 2012-13. Preseason polling of the media that covers the WAC predicts that the Bobcats will finish fifth in the 10- team WAC, while the poll of the league’s coaches predicts the Bobcats will finish in sixth place.
Antoine said she is neither thrilled nor disappointed with the WAC predictions. Last season, the Bobcats finished 8-8 in the Southland before bowing out in the second round of the league tournament.
“I think it’s fair, moving into the conference, taking a look at us statistically,” Antoine said. “Obviously, I want to compete at a higher level, but if you take a look at us statistically, it makes sense.”
Looking at the Bobcats statistically, or just looking at them at all in the last few years, you know the WAC coaches are looking out for the Bobcats because they’ve got Diamond Ford. Before she has even played a second as a WAC member, the league’s coaches put Ford on their preseason first team at their media days. A 5-9 senior from Houston (Hightower), Ford led the Southland Conference at 18.5 points per game last year. Twice, she went off for 30 points or more, and she crossed 20 points 14 times. She’s up to 1,262 points in her career, ranking eighth in school history.
For as much as she has the ball in her hands, Ford is remarkably efficient. She scored all those points despite taking only 15 shots per game. Ford is accurate with every kind of shot — 48.3 percent from two-point range, 32.1 percent from the three-point line and 86.4 percent from the free throw line. If Ford can get herself to the line more often (she made 140 trips there last year), she can be a tough scoring threat in the WAC.
All indications have it that Ford is ready to break out with another big year for the Bobcats now that they are moving up to the higher league.
“This year, she’s stepping into a role where she’s a senior, she has to be leader on our team, and she’s really accepted that role,” Antoine said. “She wants the ball in her hands. As a coach, it’s really exciting to see her take that next step.”
As Antoine sees it, there will be more steps than guarding Ford when it comes to defending the Bobcats. Antoine also is looking for big production from Ashley Ezeh, a 6-0 junior from Houston (Bush). Ezeh last year averaged 14.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game for the Bobcats.
Last year, Ford, as an outside player, led the team in scoring 19 times and in rebounding twice. Ezeh, as an inside player, led the Bobcats in scoring 10 times and in rebounding 18 times. The Bobcats were 7-0 last year when Ezeh went double-double.
“She’s a low block player, a true back to the basket player,” Antoine said of Ezeh. “With her, in addition to Diamond Ford, it really balances out our team offensively. I think that’s extremely exciting for fans of the game because we have an inside game and an outside game, so teams are going to have to make decisions about defending us.”
Kaylan Martin, a sophomore from Pflugerville, figures in as the point guard after starting the last 14 games of last season for the Bobcats. Martin started 29 games at the point for Evansville as a freshman two years ago before transferring to San Marcos.
The players have no other returning players who took a start last year. However, the move to the WAC has made Texas State quite attractive for recruits and transfers. Two tall players from the Metroplex are transferring in from the Big 12. Kileah Mays, a 6-2 sophomore from Duncanville, is on the team after transferring from Iowa State. Jacqueline Jeffcoat, a 6-2 senior from Dallas, has transferred from Oklahoma.
The Bobcats also have recruited four freshmen — 5-3 guard Ayriel Anderson from Irving McArthur, 5-7 guard Raven Burns from Missouri City (Bellaire), 6-1 forward Jaimie Grace from Westlake and 6-0 forward Erin Peoples from Little Rock, Ark.
The remaining holdovers on the Bobcats are 5-10 junior Jasmine Baugus, 5-10 senior Bree Dawson, 5-8 junior Taylor McGilbra and 6-2 senior Morgan Passino.
WAC coaches and media both picked Utah State to win the league, barely, over Louisiana Tech. The coaches and media also picked Utah State guard Devyn Christensen as the league’s preseason player of the year.