Women's Basketball Preview: Texas Southern
2016-17 Record and Finish: 23-10 (14-4 SWAC); SWAC Tournament Champion, lost in opening round of NCAA Tournament
Key Returners: G Joyce Kennerson, G Kaitlyn Palmer, F/C Artavia Ford, F Breasia McElrath
Key Losses: G Chynna Ewing
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – After breaking through to claim its first Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament championship, Texas Southern heads into the 2017-18 season primed to make a successful defense of its crown.
Winning 23 games last year, the Lady Tigers should return the vast majority of their impact players from last year’s championship season. Dynamo Joyce Kennerson -- the league-leader in scoring at 18.3 points per game last season and SWAC Women’s Basketball Tournament MVP – is back as the straw that stirs the drink for the Lady Tigers. Only a junior this season, Kennerson – who is on pace to become TSU’s all-time leading scorer – should be a leading player of the year candidate for Texas Southern this season and next.
Returning alongside Kennerson is senior guard Kaitlyn Palmer. Palmer, who is statistically the league’s premier returning sharpshooter (.335 3FG%, 68 made three-pointers), should team with Kennerson to make arguably the most dangerous 1-2 punch at the guard spot in terms of pure scoring ability.
Inside, Breasia McElrath and Artavia Ford return as well. Ford (10.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 45.4 FG%) was one of the most consistent inside forces in the SWAC last season, and the expectation is that she’ll continue that play this season. McElrath (6.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.0 SPG) provides some punch for the Lady Tigers in the paint as well.
Coach Johnetta Hayes-Perry’s latest class focused on addressing the interior, and if the new recruits are able to gel with what is already a strong core, TSU – picked to finish first in the league during conference preseason polls – may make good on the league’s preseason prognostications.
New faces such as Taylor Robinson, Aryn Tarver, Ashley Murray and Catherine Okwilagwe may be valuable pieces in Texas Southern’s bid for a repeat.
Texas Southern’s out-of-conference schedule is highlighted by tilts versus Kansas (Nov. 15), Ole Miss (Dec. 28) and NCAA tournament participant New Mexico State (Nov. 24). The Lady Tigers open the season at Oklahoma State on Nov. 13.