When you’re used to winning, nothing else will do.
And the Weatherford College Lady Coyote basketball team has done a lot of winning under the direction of Head Coach Bob McKinley in his four-plus decades at the helm. This season’s team looks to be no different as they have their sights on, once again, battling for the Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference championship.
“Our post play and shooting will be strengths,” McKinley said. “And we have five sophomores back. If they live up to expectations, that’ll be a big strength.”
The Lady Coyotes return five sophomores from last season’s 19-8 squad that advanced to the NJCAA Region V Tournament. They are 5-foot-5-inch point guard Anna Jefferson-Polk (Weatherford), 5-9 shooting guard Destiny McAfee (Longview), 5-10 forward Monika Faerber (Brisbane, Australia), 5-9 shooting guard Faith Norman (Canyon) and 6-0 forward Ashawntae Brown (San Antonio).
All five sophomores started at some point during last season.
“With the leadership, especially Faith in her third year, they set the tone,” Assistant Coach Brittnie Haley said. “They know how to win.”
Norman played a few games before receiving a medical redshirt last season.
McAfee was among the top 10 league leaders in scoring (14.3), along with tying for third in steals (2.7) and tying for fourth in rebounds (6.8). She was named All-Region V, first-team All-NTJCAC and the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Jefferson-Polk earned honorable mention all-conference honors.
The Lady Coyotes started last season 14-1 but stumbled late. However, they are using that late lull as momentum this season.
“We have all the right pieces, and if you have that you can win,” Haley said. “We could go pretty far this year.”
Which is something a lot of McKinley’s teams have done over his 43 seasons at WC, during which he has fashioned a 929-473 record, making him the winningest active two-year college basketball coach in the nation. The NTJCAC has named him Coach of the Year 12 times. In 2015, he was inducted into the NJCAA Women’s Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.
McKinley said of the recruiting class, “They’ve all got a chance to be good players. We’ve got a really good group, and the chemistry is good.”
Haley added, “We’ll have a lot of depth this year.”
Freshmen newcomers include 6-0 forward Jessica Neserant (Port St. Lucie, Florida), 6-3 forward Kay-Hauata Phillips (Te Puna, New Zealand), 6-0 forward Marina Marti-Colomer (Olot, Spain), 5-6 point guard Sumaiyah Abdur-Rahim (Arlington), 5-8 guard Laney Dixon (Gorman), 6-0 shooting guard Diamond Sweats (Dallas) and 6-2 forward Adela Valkova (Prague, Czech Republic).
“We’re definitely bigger than we were last year,” Haley said. “That hurt us in the regional tournament.”
Haley added that speed, a plus in this conference, won’t be a problem for the Lady Coyotes, either. Neither will shooting from long distance, another necessity to compete in this league.
“We have range this year. You’ve got to get out and guard us or we’re going to shoot the 3,” she said. “We’re more level this year.”
The conference coaches have tabbed Collin, Grayson, Hill and Weatherford as the four teams they expect to advance to the postseason. Ranger, Temple, McLennan, Cisco and Southwestern Christian round out the preseason picks.
However, Haley said anyone can sneak up on anyone in the NTJCAC, which is a common characteristic in the league.
“We saw everybody at two showcases and everybody’s better,” she said. “They look aggressive, physical.
“I definitely think we could [win the conference]. We have the talent. Every one of those sophomores got better in the offseason. If you look at them as freshmen and look at them now, they’re completely different.
“If they give us everything they have, along with the young new talent we brought in, we’re going to be a tough team to beat. You look for those players with a competitive nature, that know how to win and want to win, and that’s what we have.”