The Texas A&M women’s basketball team opened fall practice on Tuesday, and the Aggies said they are excited to get the season started.
“We’re super pumped as a team; it’s all we’ve been talking about for the last couple of weeks,” senior guard Jasmine Williams said. “We’ve been here all summer grinding and working, so it’s exciting to get to finally put it to work in a practice.”
The Aggies are returning all six of last season’s starters, which gives them an advantage going into this season, said A&M head coach Gary Blair.
“This is a veteran team, and they’ve got a little bit of unfinished business,” Blair said. “It’s nice to get to Sweet 16s, but I am trying to get back to the Elite Eight. I’m not in this thing to win games; I’m in this thing to compete to win championships and to be able to touch kids’ lives.”
Chennedy Carter, Ciera Johnson, N’dea Jones, Shambria Washington, Kayla Wells and Aaliyah Wilson are the returning starters for A&M.
Washington, a senior guard, took on the starting role after Wilson suffered a season-ending injury in the Aggies’ 70-63 win over the University of California, Riverside, last December. She led the Southeastern Conference with 37.4 minutes of play per conference game.
Washington said the returning talent increases the expectations placed on the team.
“It’s humbling, but it’s more responsibility because of what’s expected of us,” Washington said. “With what we have coming back, we know what’s at stake and we’re ready for it.”
While the Aggies are returning a veteran lineup, they are also adding a few new faces to the roster.
“We’ve been working on this opening day for a long time,” Blair said. “When you’re returning as many players as we’re returning, they already know my stuff, [but] we have two kids to work in and help them realize that this is not high school ball anymore. This is college ball.”
Blair said A&M’s experience will aid them this season as they look to pursue a deep run in the postseason. Last season, the Aggies fell to then-No. 3 Notre Dame 87-80 in the Sweet 16 round of the postseason to finish the season with a 26-8 record.
Junior guard and two-time All-American Chennedy Carter said that while the team has made it to the Sweet 16 each of the past two years, she expects more success this season. Carter led the NCAA Tournament in scoring average last season.
“Each year, I’ve helped my team get to a Sweet 16 — this year I’m trying to break that,” Carter said. “I want us to get further. I know that our work and effort is there. We just have to put everything together.”
Now that she is an upperclassman, Carter said she is expanding her role as a leader of the team.
“I am going to hold myself to higher expectations, and I expect my teammates to as well,” Carter said. “I’m going to continue to be a leader. We are going to compete this season, and I feel like it’s going to be a big season for us.”
Carter said the Aggies anticipate a top-10 preseason ranking — their highest ranking since 2015.
“As far as us being ranked right now, I’ve heard six, I’ve heard seven, I’ve heard eight,” Carter said. “We really just need to focus on getting those wins one day at a time.”
The Aggies will kick off the season against Oklahoma City University on Nov. 1. A tough non-conference schedule follows for A&M, as the team faces Duke and USC in November, Blair said.
“We’ve got the hardest non-conference schedule in the SEC,” Blair said. “We’ll probably take a couple hits, but in every sport, that’s the way it is. You play the best to be the best.”
Blair said he has high expectations for his team and staff as they kick off the season.
“We better be mature, we better be hungry, and we’ve got to be better coaches,” Blair said.