Published: Friday, March 8, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 8, 2013 00:03
The 2010 National Championship banner seems fresh in the minds of many A&M fans. But for the freshman class called to carry the weight of that banner into the postseason, high school graduations fall closer than do memories of the Aggie team title.
The six true freshmen on the A&M women’s basketball team haven’t failed to impress this year, making history in the team’s inaugural season in the Southeastern Conference.
The women’s basketball team notched the highest rated recruiting class in school history this past offseason, adding six true freshmen to the ranks. Five of them — Courtney Walker, Jordan Jones, Chelsea Jennings, Peyton Little and Courtney Walker — have made consistent contributions on the court this season.
Head coach Gary Blair said the freshmen class had an outstanding season as the team heads into the SEC tournament Friday.
“Walker had a sensational freshman season, along with my entire freshman class,” Blair said. “I am happy for my team being recognized for what they have accomplished with their hard work, it has been a long year and we want to finish it off the right way by going to the SEC Tournament.”
Walker has highlighted the contributions of the class, starting in every regular season game and leading the team in steals (51). Her scoring output (10.5 points per game) ranks just behind junior All-American candidate Kelsey Bone for the team lead and she trails only senior guard Adrienne Pratcher in assists (2.7 per game).
Walker earned All-SEC Freshman team honors along with a SEC Player and Freshman of the Week awards, but she wasn’t the only member of her class to receive recognition.
Little, after hitting five three-point shots to lead the Aggies to a win over Missouri, earned the SEC Freshman of the Week honors of her own.
Jones said even though they are only freshmen, Blair expects each to execute at a consistently high level.
“Basketball is basketball,” Jones said. “Whether you’re a freshman, sophomore, senior or junior, if the coach is going to put you in the game, you have to perform the way the coach knows you can perform.”
Many connections exist between the freshmen and the rest of the roster, dating from their time before A&M.
Williams was a member of an AAU Houston Elite team while in high school on which redshirt freshman Rachel Mitchell and juniors Karla Gilbert and Kelsey Bone once played.
Jennings, Walker, Jones and freshman Curtyce Knox — all members of this year’s freshman recruiting class — played for the Dallas-Forth Worth Elite club team in high school. The squad caught the attention of Blair and A&M following its victory in the 2011 17-Under Nike Elite Nationals.
Walker said it’s comfortable to compete in college with familiar players.
“It’s really fun playing together,” Walker said. “We have a lot of chemistry together because we played together three or four years together. It really helped us sync together because Jordan [Jones], Chelsea [Jennings] and I play the same positions we did when we played with DFW so it really helps our chemistry when we’re trying to learn coach Blair’s system.”
Using these connections to their advantage, the freshmen five have contributed to A&M’s fourth place regular season finish in the SEC, No. 19 nationally. During the year, the Aggies ranked as high as No. 10.
With a 21-9 overall record and an 11-5 league showing, A&M enters the SEC tournament as the No. 4 seed. The Aggies play South Carolina at 1:30 p.m. on Friday in Duluth, Ga. and will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament in College Station on March 23 and 25.