College basketball season is here and the Texas State women’s team has begun preparing for the 2022-23 season after a stinging 25-point loss in last year's conference tournament forced a second-round exit for the Bobcats.
All eyes are on the 2023 Sun Belt Conference tournament in Pensacola, Florida. Last year's tournament run ultimately got cut short in the second round when Louisiana took advantage of Texas State's offensive struggles.
Since the loss in Pensacola, head coach Zenarae Antoine has shaped this entire season on the idea that the team needs to improve defensively.
“If you take a look at the seasons where we’ve done our best at Texas State, it’s always come down to when we were really good defensively, so being top three in multiple categories is going to be really important for us moving forward,” Antoine said.
The Bobcats finished last season at 15-14 overall with a 9-6 record in the Sun Belt and are taking advantage of the team's overall depth and experience to help improve on both sides of the ball this year.
The Bobcats' main core and top six scorers return from last season, and the team will rely on veteran leadership and an experienced roster to propel Texas State women's basketball to its first conference championship appearance since 2018.
Graduate forward Da’Nasia Hood, who was awarded her second Preseason First-Team All-Sun Belt selection this year, along with graduate guard Kennedy Taylor, who enters the season ranked second in program history in career assists with 572, highlight the experienced Bobcat team and look forward to providing quality leadership over the course of the regular season and conference tournament.
Hood said there is never a feeling of comfort because there should always be room for improvement in herself and her teammates.
“I see my role as being more of a leader vocally; trying to step up in different ways whichever the team needs,” Hood said. “Whether it be on or off the floor.”
Hood led the team in scoring last season after averaging 16.9 points per game, and enters this season in 10th place on the program's career scoring list with 1,412 career points.
Hood believes that having a roster filled with experienced players makes it easier to adjust and grow as a team.
“I think our experience gives us an advantage,” Hood said. “We have a lot of veterans that are able to coach the young ones and it just helps the coaches out. It’s a lot of fine-tuning instead of teaching, and I think that allows us to get more done in a short amount of time.”
Antoine also has high praise for Taylor and said that she believes Taylor is the best point guard in the Sun Belt. Taylor not only led the conference in assists last season but also ranked top four in steals with a total of 60.
This year, Taylor has the opportunity to make Bobcat history as she is only 23 assists away from passing Shelly Borton on the program's all-time assists leaderboard, a record that has held up for over 30 years.
“It's tremendous to have Da’Nasia Hood back as a first-team all-conference player. You add to that Kennedy Taylor who I believe is the best point guard in our conference,” Antoine said. “I look forward to going back to Pensacola this year and doing some damage.”
Taylor and Hood have played alongside each other since they were freshmen, and have developed a chemistry over the years that other teams simply cannot replicate.
“It's a very special bond. We like to call ourselves the dynamic duo. It’s amazing playing with a player like Kennedy,” Hood said. “At 5’1, it’s hard to do what she does, she’s able to put everyone on our team in a position to score.”
The 2022-2023 Sun Belt Preseason Coaches Poll listed Texas State at five, and there are questions as to whether or not the Bobcats were overlooked despite having a more experienced set of players compared to other teams in the conference.
Old Dominion head coach Delisha Milton-Jones made a statement about how she analyzes the coaches poll and how it can be misleading sometimes.
“I don’t get too caught up in the coach’s picks and where teams fall because when you look at a team like Texas State, they’re returning a veteran team and they’re fully loaded,” Milton-Jones said at Sun Belt Conference Media Day. “They should be ranked higher than fifth.”
Antoine had the same outlook when it came to this year's preseason coaches poll, and would rather focus on other aspects that can help the team be more successful.
“Right now, to me, it’s just a number that’s based on the season before,” Antoine said. “I think what’s important now is that we focus on ourselves defensively and let the chips fall where they may.”
Texas State women’s basketball officially tipped off on Monday, Nov. 7 in front of a home crowd against Howard Payne University. The Bobcats' next game is at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12, against the Sam Houston Bearkats at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum in Huntsville, Texas.