Bone to pick
Published: Friday, November 9, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 9, 2012 03:11
Only two seasons ago, a determined A&M women’s basketball team hoisted the national championship trophy, stunning the basketball world as the Aggies surged to defeat traditional juggernauts Baylor, Stanford and Notre Dame. As A&M enters a new league, few faces from the title team remain as the Aggies begin their search for leadership on an inexperienced, albeit talented, roster.
Perhaps no one will be counted upon more for leadership and consistent playmaking than junior center Kelsey Bone.
A high school basketball prodigy out of Sugarland, expectations were substantial as she entered the competitive realm of Division I basketball. A star at South Carolina her freshman season, Bone opted to transfer back to her home state to play for the Aggies and A&M head coach Gary Blair.
“Coach Blair and company recruited me since the seventh grade,” Bone said. “Initially out of high school I thought I wanted to do something different, go see a different part of the country. While that was fun, it’s nothing like being home. It’s nothing like the state of Texas and nothing like Texas A&M. For me it was a no-brainer.”
Due to NCAA transfer rules, Bone would sit out her sophomore season but gained valuable experience working with A&M’s national championship team, particularly through practicing against Aggie all-time great and All-American Danielle Adams.
Her practice translated to the court her junior season. A key contributor to A&M’s 2011-12 Sweet Sixteen squad, she led the team in rebounds with 6.9 per game and was second in scoring, pitching in 11.9 points per contest.
Even through her success, expectations for Bone far exceeded her performance. The second highest recruited player as a senior out of high school after Baylor’s Brittney Griner, she possesses the talent for elite performances.
Blair said he’s waiting for Bone to transform into a complete player. Referencing the success of A&M’s quarterback Johnny Manziel, Blair said he hopes Bone can replicate the signal caller’s knack for combining playmaking with leadership.
“He has the ability to make the people around him better and that’s what separates Manziel from all the other quarterbacks that are out there now,” Blair said. “Can Kelsey Bone do this with her team? Not worrying so much about what Kelsey Bone’s stats are, but does she go in and live up to expectations?”
Expectations are even greater for Bone as she’s expected to fill the void left by five graduating seniors. Gone are Sydney Carter, Tyra White, Adaora Elonu, Skylar Collins and Kelsey Assarian — all integral pieces to A&M’s recent success on the hardwood. In are six freshmen, many of whom will be expected to contribute early and often to match the standard of one of women’s basketball’s power programs.
Despite the significant losses, Bone said the expectations for team performance remain the same, a mindset she said she looks to instill as a leader.
“We bring in six very talented freshmen but there’s a way you act here, there are expectations that come with being an Aggie women’s basketball player,” Bone said. “That’s something you have to get used to. I know that once the freshmen are acclimated, the basketball will take care of itself. I have to teach them the do’s and don’ts and what Coach Blair expects.”
Blair said Bone went into the off-season with a reinvigorated resolve, to be both a leader and a player heading into a season filled with challenges and developing youth.
“This is the hardest she’s ever worked to get into shape, to get the game and be a leader,” Blair said. “This is the first time in her life she’s ever been captain of a basketball team. Now it’s a new spotlight for her, and the kids are waiting for her to lead — not just score 20 points a game — but to lead.”