By Andrew Zimmel
Assistant Director to the Common Man
If you are new to Texas State, have a seat and listen closely. Forget what you know about Women’s Basketball. Every joke, every “it’s not as exciting as the men’s game,” every “but they don’t dunk,” get rid of it. The revolution is here and it is beautiful with Junior Point Guard/Scorer/Assassin Toshua Leavitt at the helm running the show and putting one on as well.
The game has changed from the professional level all the way down to YMCA. The days of having the biggest girl or boy running down to the low block and post up are over. Now, every player wants, and needs, to be able to handle the ball well enough to get their own shot off. Point Guards are setting picks for big men to take threes. Years ago, this would be madness, but now it’s the norm and college basketball is thriving from it. Last year, Tori Jankoska from Michigan State lead the nation averaging 3.7 three pointers attempted per game. This year, Leavitt is shooting almost two more per game averaging just under five per game. Leavitt is also making almost half of those threes she takes (44 percent), good for top 30 in the nation and dwarfing Jankoska’s 38 percent last season which didn’t even rank in the top 50 last year.
This change hasn’t been a slow one for the Leavitt or the Bobcats. Last season, Leavitt ended the season with 77 made threes. This season, she already has 69 made threes with still at least 14 more games left on the schedule. It is very safe to assume that she will surpass her career high in three pointers very quickly. However, just like Leavitt, this is new for Coach Zenarae “Z” Antoine’s offense. Last season, the Bobcats finished third in the nation on attempted threes with 11 per game, trailing only DePaul (13.4) and Florida Gulf Coast (12.3), and coming off a season before where they averaged only seven and a half threes per game. During the 2014-15 season, the Bobcats didn’t even rank in the top 50 for team three point percentage or attempts.
So what changed? Why has the offense that many would have considered average for the Sun Belt Conference just three years ago all of a sudden changed so rapidly? Recruiting is the simplest answer. A lesson that Coach Z learned quickly seems that you can teach defense, but you can’t teach someone how to get buckets. The roster is evenly broken up between upper and lower classmen, players who learned the system and players still learning it. Texas State leads the Sun Belt Conference in three point percentage and assist to turnover ratio (another testament to Leavitt’s other skill, her good passing), and is top two in scoring, field goal percentage and defense. A winning combination to say the least.
I don’t want to be the person to jinx this team, but they are playing at a level that many have not seen them play at in some time. This seems to be a type of chemistry between the players, coaches and fans that can’t be replicated in many other schools. The Bobcats have three top 15 scores in the Sun Belt Conference, including Sophomore Brooke Holle who has seen her roll increase substantially from last year’s team.
Coming into today’s game, Leavitt is collecting her second Conference Player of the Week and the Bobcat’s third as a team (Taeler Deer won the award the first week of the season) and has set a new career highs in points and three pointers made, while at the same time setting the school record and tying the conference record for the latter. The Bobcats look to face 8-7 (3-1 in conference) Arkansas State Red Wolves and Akasha Westbrook in Jonesboro, and of course there are plenty of storylines coming into this game with the biggest circling around Texas State.
Coming into today’s match up, Coach Z is just two wins shy of 100 career wins at Texas State. Only three other Women’s Basketball Coaches have reached 100 wins coaching the Maroon and Gold: Suzanne Fox (1997-2011), Judy Rinker (1966-75) and Linda Sharp (1989-1997). Coach Z led one of the best turnarounds in school history, taking a 9-20 team the year before, to 17-14, including the school’s first conference tournament win since 2003.
I hate it when sports writers try to predict a team’s success this early in the season, because they are mostly all wrong and make a fool of themselves; however, with that said I would be shocked if this team didn’t dominate the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in March.They may even find a way to get a bid to the NCAA tournament for just the way they’ve dominated their out of conference and in conference schedule. They really are the best show in town.
Featured image by Spencer Hall.