Halloween has come and gone and that means only one thing...BASKETBALL SEASON IS HERE!
Last season, the UCF Knights women’s basketball program reached new heights, getting their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2011 and their first at-large bid.
When the team lost in the First Round last March to the Arizona State Sun Devils, the team also lost seven seniors, including four starters.
There’s a lot of newness to this team with the new season, so here is everything you should know before the start of the ladies’ season tomorrow against the Pittsburgh Panthers.
26-7, 13-3 AAC, NCAA First Round
Last year’s team rolled with seven seniors and the star play from point guard Kay Kay Wright. The team won 17 of 20 games from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day and used that to fuel a run to The American Championship Game against UConn, and an at-large bid and a 12-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The team lost in the First Round to 5-seed Arizona State, but the bar was raised and reset for the team to progress into the future.
UCF is projected to finish third in the conference this season behind Cincinnati and UConn, with the Huskies being the unanimous favorite to win, as they should.
However, UConn is moving to the Big East after this season and the tone will be set for the American in the post-UConn era. UCF can make a statement by finishing at the top of the conference to get a head start when the conference becomes much more wide open in 2020-21.
Who’s in Charge
Coach Abrahamson-Henderson, or Coach Abe, is in her fourth year at the helm.
The team has improved in each year since Coach Abe arrived in 2016-17 and the team has a .697 winning percentage in that span.
Coach Abe’s entire staff is back for a fourth season together and have the continuity that a team with nine new players is looking for.
Listen to our interview with Coach Abe here at the 49:45 mark:
Who to Watch
#2 Kay Kay Wright (Senior Guard - Orlando, FL)
- 2019 AAC Preseason Co-Player of the Year
- 2019 Nancy Lieberman Watch List
- 2018 All-AAC First Team
Kay Kay Wright is the star of this team — absolutely nothing can really change that. She averaged 18 points per game last season and is one of two seniors on a rather young roster.
She is the first player in The American to ever be named Preseason Player of the Year that dons a jersey other than UConn’s.
Wright is the team captain and the unquestionable leader of the team this season.
#5 Masseny Kaba (Junior Forward - Dorchester, MA)
Kaba is one of five players returning to a UCF roster in need of some leadership.
At 6’3”, she fills that role in the post.
Kaba primarily came off the bench last season but will return to a starting role this season. She averaged 4.5 rebounds per game last season and will be a candidate to be the team’s leading rebounder this season.
#32 Brittney Smith (Sophomore Forward - Orlando, FL)
The Boone HS sophomore has had to grow up quickly as she looks to play a much larger role in her second season.
At 6’3”, Smith will likely start next to Kaba in the frontcourt and stand as UCF’s rebounding tandem.
Smith averaged just 3.3 points per game last season, but with an expanded role, the team is expecting and counting on that number to increase.
#3 Diamond Battles (Sophomore Guard - Winter Haven, FL)
Battles was Kay Kay Wright’s predominant backup during her freshman year, but Battles will now look to play alongside Wright more in their sophomore season.
Battles and Wright have known each other for years in the Central Florida hoops scene and will get a chance to truly play together in 2019-20.
Who We’ll Miss
Sydnee McDonald, Tolu Omokore, Nyala Shuler, Kayla Thigpen
The team has significant holes to fill.
Sydnee McDonald was the team’s primary three-point weapon last season. For a team that does not shoot the long ball often, it is rough to not have much of it at all anymore.
Nyala Shuler was the team’s leading rebounder last season.
Kayla Thigpen was the AAC Sixth Player of the Year last season.
And Tolu Omokore brought an insane amount of energy that the team fed off of in the post. But don’t worry, Tolu is only a tweet away.
It won’t be easy for the team to adjust after losing seven seniors and it will likely be one of the team’s biggest struggles throughout the season.
Who’s on the Roster
- Two seniors
- Nine newcomers (five transfers and four freshmen)
- 5 players from Florida, including 3 from the Orlando area
When the Big Games Are
11/6 vs. Pittsburgh (Home Opener)
11/30 vs. UCLA (Cavalier Classic in Charlottesville, Va.)
1/5 vs. ECU (Conference Opener)
1/16 vs. UConn, 2/22 @ UConn
1/19 @ USF, 2/19 vs. USF
The Last Time...
Last Conference Title: Never. UConn has won it every year since the AAC’s inception in 2014. UCF’s last conference title in any league was in 2011, in Conference USA
Last NCAA Appearance: Last Year. It was the Knights’ first NCAA Tournament since 2011. UCF has never won an NCAA Tournament game.
What to Keep an Eye On
Kay Kay Wright is auditioning for professional teams all over the world this season, including the WNBA. If Wright can have a season like she had last year, it will be hard for scouts not to take notice.
She has the green light to take this team as far as it can go and a lot of the team’s success is dependent on how successful Wright is in her senior season.
Listen to Kay Kay in her interview with us at the 44:45 mark: