Spring check-in: Women’s basketball

Coaches and staff discuss expectations coming off Sweet 16 season

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The Bulls will start next season in unknown territory for the program as a nationally ranked team.

Coming off the two biggest wins in program history this past March at the NCAA Tournament, Buffalo is hoping to build with the upcoming recruiting class. The coaching staff is looking to work on this past season’s weaknesses and strengths in attempt to bring the program even fmore national success. The team ranked No. 21 in the nation to close out this past season coaches poll, a program-first appearance on the Top 25.

“Each year, this just keeps growing and growing,” said head coach Felisha Legette-Jack. “When I first took over, man, we were losing a lot. Now we have a chance to show the whole nation what UB basketball is about and grow this into something that can be recognized nationwide. Why not us in Buffalo? We have all the tools to make one of the nation’s best programs right here.”

One of Buffalo’s most noticeable recruits is the recent addition of guard Ariel Dickson. She comes in having averaged 15 points and 5 assists at Homewood-Flossmoor High School in Flossmoor, Illinois. The 5-foot-5-inch Dickson is a former McDonald’s All-American game nominee.

She is joined by fellow 5-foot-10-inch guard Oceane Konukou. Konukou comes in having averaged 10 points and 5 rebounds in her last season at Dawson’s College in Quebec. Konukou will transfer in having played two seasons at Dawson’s College.

The Bulls will add size with this upcoming recruiting class, having four players coming in at 6 feet or taller for this upcoming season. One of the Bulls' biggest issues was playing larger teams.

“When you saw us in the Sweet 16 against South Carolina, you saw us against a much bigger team,” Leggette-Jack said in an interview shortly after the end of this past season. “That is something we are fixing with this upcoming group of new talent we are bringing in.”

After having only one center last season in senior Cassie Oursler, the Bulls will have three players who can play the position. 6-foot-3-inch center Zena Elias is the Bulls' tallest recruit and averaged 9.3 points and 11.1 rebounds in her senior season at Countryside High School in Clearwater, Florida.

The Bulls have brought in 6-foot-2-inch forward Adebola Adeyeye, who comes in having averaged 16.1 points and 17.9 rebounds in her senior season at the Rock High School in Gainesville, Florida. Adeyeye and Elias look to have an immediate impact on the team with the graduations of Oursler and senior forward Mariah Suchan.

Buffalo’s recent additions also include a pair of forwards in 6-foot Alexis Adams and 6-foot-3-inch Keowa Walters. Adams averaged 8.7 points and 6.2 rebounds in her junior year at South Brunswick High School in Monmouth Junction, New Jersey. Walters, a teammate of Adeyeye’s at the Rock High School, averaged 8.2 points and 12.3 rebounds in her junior year.

“This past recruiting season was one of our best ever,” said assistant coach Kristen Sharkey. “With the recent success, we were able to really recruit more effectively throughout the country and in Canada. We have been able to sell these girls on what we can do here at Buffalo and what they can be a part of.”

Already Legette-Jack said she plans to bring the Bulls to a program-first Elite Eight appearance next season.

Sharkey said she spends her time in the office looking over tapes of incoming players, trying to find attributes that can be built upon at UB. Sharkey is one of the program’s lead recruiters and said selling the students on the team mentality is a big part in their decision to join.

“That is something we are always looking to build here,” Legette-Jack said. “Building this family atmosphere starts by letting the new people coming in know what UB women’s basketball is all about.”

Director of Basketball Operations Karin Moss said it is a very exciting time to be part of the team and said the program “can only move up from up here.”

“In my first season here, we made it to the Sweet 16,” Moss said. “Given the talent of the incoming players and the wealth of talent we have already, it is going to be hard for us not to get better.”

Thomas Zafonte is the senior sports editor and can be reached at: thomas.zafonte@ubspectrum.com and @Thomas_Spectrum