On Wednesday, Lady Raider basketball coach Krista Gerlich spoke to the media after the team’s first official practice of the season.
This is Gerlich’s first-ever official practice with the program after being hired in August.
“I’m excited to be here. It kind of got real,” said Gerlich. “We’ve got a short amount of time and a lot to do.”
The season is expected to start within the month, and the late addition of Gerlich after the firing of former head coach Marlene Stollings left less time than usual to prepare for the upcoming season.
The short amount of time mixed with the influx of players poses a challenge for any new coach, but after the first session of practice, Gerlich seems confident in the direction of her new team.
“They’re going to see some great team basketball. I think they’re going to see us manage the clock well at times, I think they’re going to see us score in transition well at times and be fundamentally sound,” said Gerlich.
That being said, here’s a breakdown of the rest of Gerlich’s opening-practice news conference:
The Lady Raider program added an assortment of talent this offseason. They have seven new faces on the team, including three freshmen and four transfers.
The four transfers include: Junior guard Emma Clarke (transferred from Colorado), junior guard Naje Murray (transferred from San Diego State), junior guard Bryn Gerlich (transferred from Oklahoma State) and senior guard Vivian Gray (transferred from Oklahoma State).
In line with policy for all transfers across the nation, waivers serve to be the biggest factor, as they determine if the player will be immediately eligible or not. Gerlich spoke briefly on the waivers.
“We still have some waivers to win before there’s some eligibility, but when we have a full team those transfers are going to be very impactful,” said Gerlich.
According to a release by Tech Athletics on the date of signing, Murray will be immediately eligible for the Lady Raiders for the upcoming season. She is the only definitive eligible player so far, as announced by Tech. However, Gray is a graduate transfer, and in suit should be eligible for the upcoming season, but the NCAA still has not made a definitive decision. The waivers also are still pending on coach Gerlich’s daughter, Bryn Gerlich, as she transferred from Oklahoma State last season, and also Clarke.
Despite the new additions, some of the returning Lady Raiders have sustained injuries. In her news conference, Gerlich said junior guard Jada Walton would be out for the season with an injury. Walton missed last season due to NCAA transfer rules, and is currently classified as a redshirt junior, according to Tech Athletics.
Gerlich also said Jo’Nah Johnson would be out with injury, per the conference, but did not provide specifics on either case.
“That’s a blow to us,” said Gerlich. “Those two are definitely kids that could be very impactful.”
Last season, Johnson played in 27 games and made 18 starts, according to Tech Athletics. She was utilized as the primary ball handler for the secondary unit, and her passing ability was among the best in the conference. In fact, Johnson’s 3.9 assists per game ranked seventh in the Big 12, and her 1.7 assist to turnover ratio was the highest on the team.
Walton has yet to suit up for Tech, but prior, at Texas A&M, she played in 58 games, according to A&M Athletics. Walton led or tied for the lead on the Aggies’ bench in points, rebounds, blocks and steals during her last season at A&M.
Gerlich also mentioned that Tech’s starting point guard and assist leader last season, junior guard Chrislyn Carr, has yet to suit up.
“She hasn’t been in practice yet, but we’re hopeful that she gets in practice soon,” said Gerlich. “Just for some health issues that we’re trying to get through with her, but I’m excited about coaching her.”
Offensive System (Sharing the ball):
Last season, the Lady Raiders proved to the nation that they could score the ball with the best. Against No. 2-ranked Baylor, they put up 79 points in their first matchup. They were the only team to score that many against the former national champs, according to Tech Athletics. Now, with the addition of the second-leading scorer in the Big 12, Gray, the Lady Raiders need to find a way to become fluid with a host of offensive firepower.
“We can do some things really well, we have some kids that can really score the ball, we just have to figure out how to do that as a team,” Gerlich said.
The Lady Raiders are returning a flurry of scorers including senior guard Lexi Gordon, who finished last season with 14 double-digit outings including a pair of 30-plus point games and three 20-plus point games, according to Tech Athletics. Gordon averaged 13 points on the season and shot 36 percent from beyond the arc on 46 attempts, which both ranked second on the team.
They also return the most efficient scorer on the team, sophomore guard Alexis Tucker, who averaged a team-high 53.8 field goal percentage, according to Tech Athletics. Tucker averaged 10.7 points per game on the season. The two-time freshman of the week appeared in all 29 games for Tech last season.
The Lady Raider offense will again be run by Carr, who started 28 of 29 games last season, according to Tech Athletics. Carr was the second-leading scorer for Tech, averaging 13.9 points per game, which ranked 15th in the Big 12.
The newest addition to the team and potentially the number one scoring option for the Lady Raiders, Gray, was statistically the top move in the Big 12 conference this offseason. The two-time unanimous All-Big 12 guard averaged 19.3 points per game last season, according to NCAA Statistics, which ranked second among all players in the league. At Oklahoma State, she reached the 1,000-point mark faster than any other player in program history, according to Oklahoma State Athletics.
The new Lady Raider offense will also include a positionless playstyle, according to Gerlich. She said there were a number of players on her team that are big but have guard-based skills. Gerlich referred to them as “tweeners” in the news conference.
“We’ve got three or four kids like that, that can really score it,” Gerlich said. “They’re great mid-range jump shooters, they can shoot the three. They do have guard skills and they are tough on the block. It’s going to be fun to put them in different scenarios with different lineups.”
Size and Youth of Team:
The most glaring loss for this Lady Raider team comes from the forward position in now WNBA talent Brittany Brewer. The former Lady Raider at 6-foot-5 led the team in points, rebounds and blocks, according to Tech Athletics. Her shoes would be hard to fill for any program, but Gerlich thinks she has the right players on track to contribute to success.
Gerlich has a freshman trio of forwards: Khyla Wade-Warren (6'2"), Daija Powell (6'1") and Khadija Faye (6'4") who are new to the program.
Despite their youth, Gerlich thinks they have great potential.
“They’re going to be beasts by the time they get to be juniors and seniors, for sure. But we do need them to grow up in a hurry,” said Gerlich.
Gerlich said that the schedule for the 2020-2021 season should be coming out by the end of this week or the beginning of next week. She also said the schedule would consist of six non-conference games that would take place at the United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock. The Lady Raiders are looking to start play particularly soon.
“We will open up on the 25th, so that’ll be great,” said Gerlich.
Last season, the Lady Raiders finished the season 18-11 overall and 7-11 in conference play. At home, they went 13-5. With a new system, a new coach and an influx of talent, Tech women’s basketball will look to do even better this year.