The Blinn College women’s basketball team’s preseason checklist looks something like this:
Experience? In progress.
After graduating nine sophomores from his 2022-23 squad and bringing back just three players from that team, Blinn College women’s basketball head coach Jeff Jenkins and the Buccaneers are readying for a season of learning, growth, and progress as the 2023-24 season opener nears.
“You will see a lot of growth from this group and it’s exciting to think about where they’re going to be come February and March,” Jenkins said. “As a coach, you’d love to coach 10 sophomores every season, but that’s not always the case at the junior-college level. You recruit and you teach and you coach and you hope to get the very best out of the classes you bring in.”
As the Bucs prepare to open their season against No. 11 McLennan Community College at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 1, Jenkins finds himself in a situation he hasn’t seen since the 2009-10 campaign. That year, two players returned from the previous season and brought with them a combined scoring average of six points or less. That will be the case this season as sophomores Tianna Mathis and Jasmyn Jackson played a combined 70 games in 2022-23 but were not relied upon to score.
(Pictured: Blinn College’s Tianna Mathis, 21, drives to the basket during a game against Temple College on Nov. 21, 2022)
Mathis, a guard, and Jackson, a forward, hope to help along 14 freshmen who are succeeding a class of 2023 sophomores that provided Blinn with one of its winningest two-year stretches in program history.
Between 2021 and 2023, the Buccaneers totaled 59 victories, two Region XIV regular-season co-championships, a Region XIV Tournament title, and two triples to the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship tournament. In May, Jenkins graduated nine key contributors to that historic run.
Blinn’s most experienced players now aim to show the new Bucs how to be successful at the collegiate level.
“From the start, we’ve tried to help them transition from the high school game to the college game,” Mathis said. “It’s faster; you have to get the ball up the court quicker and get a shot off faster because there’s a shot clock at this level. We’re also trying to teach them that you have to roll with the ups and downs of each game because basketball is a game of runs. They have to be ready to roll with the punches.”
Jackson, who averaged just 2.5 points per game but also provided the Bucs with 115 rebounds and a team-high 48 blocks as a freshman, said a big lesson for her new teammates will be figuring out how to contribute in a way that best helps the team win.
“It’s all about figuring out what the team needs and learning how you fit into what we’re doing,” Jackson said. “Our goal is to do our best with the players and the skill sets that we have, and it’s everyone’s job to find their role.”
Blinn’s incoming freshman include guards Jonesha Neal, Elizabeth Walton, Wynter Jones, Nala Richardson, Ja’Nya Thomas, Kyla Clark, DJ Kincade, Chelsy Singleton, and forwards Jayden Davenport, Biva Byrd, Chrystal Jones, Antronea Jackson, and Tocarra Johnson. Freshman guard Carolyn Seif returns from last season’s team after redshirting.
The Bucs competed in several scrimmages during the lead up to the regular season, and Jenkins said he saw enough to know that his team is athletic and talented but will need time to develop into a winning basketball team.
“I truly believe we have a chance to be one of the top teams in our league, but it’s going to take a lot of bumps and bruises in November, December, and January, and it’s not going to be easy,” Jenkins explained. “We’ve seen plenty of positives in our scrimmages, and we’re extremely confident as a group. It’s going to come down to breaking them down and building them back up to make sure they’re playing the game the right way.”
Blinn competes in what continues to be one of the toughest regions in the NJCAA, a conference that produced the 2021-22 national champion in Tyler Junior College and last season’s runner-up, Trinity Valley. Both of those teams found themselves on this season’s preseason top 25 poll – Trinity Valley at No. 2 and Tyler at No. 19. Blinn opens region play against Trinity Valley on the road on Jan. 10, 2024.
Aside from a tough region slate, the Bucs also will play two non-conference games against eighth-ranked Collin College and two against McLennan.
“It always seems to start with Tyler and Trinity Valley, but Kilgore College looks very good, and several coaches believe that Angelina College could be the best team in our league this year,” Jenkins said. “Our goal is to improve gradually and give ourselves a chance to beat those top teams after the winter break. If we’re playing our best basketball in February and March – and that’s our plan — I’m going to be very pleased with this group.”
Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 44 NJCAA national championships since 1987.