For the Abilene Christian women’s basketball team, adjustments were part of the game in 2021-22. Having to deal with a lot of travel, new opponents to get used to, facing opponents with significant size, and so forth created quite the adjustment in West Texas.
But, it was a solid debut campaign for the Abilene Christian women in their first year in the WAC.
17 wins with a .500 winning percentage in WAC play and lost in 2nd day action of the conference tournament. The Wildcats started off the 2021-22 season winning six of seven games. And in WAC play, Abilene Christian opened with three straight wins before running into the buzzsaw of Stephen F. Austin and Grand Canyon.
However, veteran head coach Julie Goodenough lost her top two scorers. Leading scorer Jamie Bonnarens (15.1 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 41% from 3-point land) is now an assistant coach at Cameron University. Second leading scorer Tatum Barber (9.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG) also ran out of eligibility.
So, as you can see, the cupboard is somewhat bare heading into the 2022-23 season at Abilene Christian. But, there is also a youth movement. Goodenough and her staff brought in four true freshman along with five transfers. Four of the transfers are from Divsion I schools while the fifth comes from a Division II school.
Abilene Christian didn’t necessarily get bigger. They got longer and quicker and will use that speed to get up and down the floor a bit more in its second season in the WAC.
Julie Goodenough (11th year)
At Abilene Christian:
17-13 overall, 9-9 WAC
Lost in 2nd round of WAC tournament
Jamie Bonnarens – Graduated
Tatum Barber – Graduated
Kamryn Mraz – Retired from basketball
Brooke Jessen 6-1, So., Transfer (UTRGV)
Zoe Jackson 5-8, So., Transfer (Butler)
Aspen Thornton 5-6, So., Transfer (Ouachita Baptist)
Raychael Harjo 6-3, So., Transfer (UCF)
Maleeah Langstaff 6-0, Gr., Transfer (Northeastern State)
Madi Miller 5-9, Graduate, G
Bella Earle 5-10, So., G
Projected Starting Lineup:
G – Madi Miller
G – Zoe Jackson
G – Bella Earle
F – Brooke Jessen
C – Alexis Babineaux
Although the Wildcats do posses a couple of high level scorers from the Division II ranks, those players still have to prove themselves at this level. Babineaux and Jessen provide a nice amount of size down low. Meanwhile Miller, Jackson, and Earle give the Wildcats a solid guard line as long as they can avoid foul trouble.
Despite the losses of their top two scorers there is still reason for optimism in Abilene. Madi Miller decided to return for her graduate year, giving the Wildcats a grizzled veteran presence along with grad transfer Maleeah Langstaff from Northeastern State. There are no true seniors, one lone junior, and a bevy of underclassmen on the roster which look to improve upon that finish of a year ago.
In our “Way Too Early” women’s basketball rankings both myself and our newest contributor Chelsea Mendelson have the Wildcats at #4.
Fan should expect big years from Miller. They should also expect big things from Bella Earle. The sophomore guard averaged 7.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG, and was a 35% shooter from 3-point distance a season ago. The question is who else will step up from a scoring standpoint?
One option to help is Aspen Thornton. The 5-6 sophomore guard from Ouachita Baptist averaged 23.4 points per game on an efficient 43 percent from the field. Thornton also shot 38 percent from 3-point range. The Tigers were 10-16 overall but just 8-14 in Great American Conference (NCAA DII) play.
“Aspen is just a walking bucket,” ACU head coach Julie Goodenough said. “And we’re really excited to see her game move from the D-II to D-I level and the impact she’ll have in the WAC.”
Another is Butler transfer Zoe Jackson who averaged 6.8 PPG, 3.0 APG & 2.6 RPG while in the Big East a season ago.
Goodenough also picked up inter conference transfer Brooke Jessen from UTRGV who averaged just 2.7 PPG & 2.7 RPG. But, it was the WAC tournament where Jessen made her presence felt. Jessen had a season-high 14 points against ACU on 3-3 from deep in last year’s WAC tournament game.
The Wildcats were third in scoring offense at 71.2 PPG in WAC play while shooting 43% in total (3rd) & 34.5% from 3 (3rd).
Areas of Improvement
Defensively, the Wildcats allowed 138 3-pointers (2nd most in the conference) at a 35.8% clip and a total 46.3% field goal shooting percentage (last in field goal percentage defense). That is definitely a category the Wildcats will need to shore up in order to move up the conference leaderboard.
Goodenough remarked about their struggles on that end of the floor.
“We just had a really hard time stopping penetration last year. And so this offseason, I feel like we addressed those issues by getting longer and more athletic in our recruiting.”
A young Wildcats team will get an international trip in August that has been two years in the making with two games to build chemistry and see if those issues have been sufficiently addressed.