The Sam Houston State University women’s basketball team is on the upswing this season. After going a combined 7-48 (4-32 against Southland Conference opponents) the last two seasons, the Bearkats are 7-7 (2-2) through 14 games in the 2018-19 season.
“Culture is something that you have to work on every day,” head coach Ravon Justice said. “It’s not just when you come to practice. It’s film, you know it’s school, it’s having a great attitude every day… We talk about winning the day every day, and that’s what we want to be a part of our culture.”
Under first year head coach Ravon Justice, the Bearkats have implemented an up-tempo, pace-and-space style of play, which has led to success.
“Pace-and-space is our game,” Justice said. “That’s really important to me because you can’t just turn it on in a game. If you’re going to be a fast-paced team then you have to practice it every day.”
Playing faster has paid huge dividends for the Bearkats, as they have scored at least 100 points twice this season. It is the first time they have reached triple digits since the 1994-95 season against Nicholls State University. In 2019-19, the Kats are averaging 72.6 points per game, which is an improvement of over 15 points from last season. If they keep up this pace they would set a school record as the highest scoring team in SHSU history, breaking the 2010-11 squad’s record of 69.3.
Leading the offensive outburst this year is junior guard Jaylonn Walker. Walker leads the team in scoring with 15.7 points per game and is second on the team in assists with 3.6 per game. A transfer from McClennan Community College, Walker has helped the Bearkats become competitive in their first year under Justice.
“The biggest thing is you want to compete every night,” Justice said. “As long as you compete you have an opportunity to win games.”
After being picked to finish last in the Southland Conference preseason poll, the Bearkats have made it clear that they are not going to be a cellar dweller. After a solid 5-5 non-conference stretch, they have continued momentum into conference play with wins over the University of Central Arkansas and Incarnate Word. The UCA Sugar Bears were picked third in the preseason and were one of just two teams with first place votes in the poll.
One area in which the Bearkats have improved the most is team chemistry. The team did return eight players from a season ago, but anytime you implement an entirely new style the way that Justice has, chemistry does figure to be an issue.
“The biggest thing is chemistry,” Justice said. “I don’t think people realize how hard it is to love basketball when you’re losing. That’s the biggest thing is just the chemistry and encouraging each other through tough days, and that’s what I’m the most proud of.”
The Bearkats look to continue implementing a winning culture going forward, as they start a four game homestand Wednesday January 23 against Northwestern State.