WACO (AP) – Eight is not enough this season for the fifth-ranked Baylor women.
Each of the last two seasons for the Lady Bears have ended with a loss to Notre Dame in an NCAA regional final — also known as the Elite Eight.
“In a lot of respects we probably overachieved getting to the Elite Eight, but now that you’ve done that, you’ve become greedy, and it’s OK to be greedy, be hungry,” coach Kim Mulkey said. “We now need to get to a Final Four, and we need to get better. We have the depth to do it, we’ve got the size to do it.”
There is All-American post player and preseason Big 12 player of the year Nina Davis and record-setting point guard Niya Johnson, one of three seniors — all of them already graduate students. Former two-year Duke starting guard and All-ACC pick Alexis Jones is now eligible after sitting out last season per NCAA transfer rules.
Baylor’s five freshmen include two McDonald’s All-Americans who are at least 6-4, along with another 6-4 post and two standout guards.
“We know how good we are, we know that we can be a special team,” said Davis, the junior who averaged 21.1 points and 8.3 rebounds a game last season.
“Very motivated,” said Johnson, who had a Big 12-record 322 assists last season. “Just stopping at the Elite Eight, and not getting to the Final Four, really a little bit aggravating.”
The Lady Bears are coming off five consecutive seasons when they won at least 30 games while also claiming the Big 12 regular season and conference tournament titles. In 15 seasons under Mulkey, they have won 437 games and two national championships, including the 40-0 record four seasons ago that was their last of three Final Four appearances.
During every practice, and most other times as well, Davis, Johnson and all their teammates are wearing bracelets with their season motto “Eight is not enough” inscribed on them.
“I don’t ever take mine off,” Davis said. “I can be sitting in class and I’ll see it.”
Some other things to know about the Lady Bears, who open the season at home Friday night in a Preseason WNIT game against Texas-Arlington:
ALEXIS BACK — AT HOME: Like her new teammates, the last game for Alexis Jones was against Notre Dame — while playing for Duke on Feb. 23, 2014, when she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee.
Jones averaged 11.1 points, 4.6 assists and 1.9 steals while starting all 64 games she played at Duke. She was an All-ACC pick by coaches as a sophomore after being the league tournament MVP as a freshman.
“It was a very difficult time. … I never had to sit out that long,” said Jones, the junior who is from MacArthur High in Irving, Texas.
BIG AND FRESH: Freshman post players Kalani Brown (6-7) and Beatrice Mompremier (6-4), both McDonald All-Americans in high school, combined for 67 points and 37 rebounds in Baylor’s two exhibition games. “Not only do they bring good size, they bring basketball knowledge,” Mulkey said.
HEALTHY PRINCE: Alexis Prince had surgery on both feet for stress fractures before starting 31 of her 37 games last season as a sophomore, after getting a medical redshirt for 2013-14. “As healthy as she’s been here,” Mulkey said.
EARLY DEPARTURES: Three players left the program during the offseason even with eligibility remaining. They were guards Imani Wright and Ieshia Small, along with freshman post player Micayla Buckner.
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