Photo by Gerald Castillo
Bobcats still building chemistry after strong Sun Belt start
At the end of Wednesday’s practice, the Bobcats hung a white banner on the railing of the front row of baseline seats, reading “COMMUNICATION” in all capital letters.
The players gathered around the sign to take a team picture.
“We can’t see the C,” senior forward Zandra Emanuel told sophomore forward Jayla Johnson, who had just plopped down on the hardwood. Johnson didn’t move.
Assistant coach Paige Love took the first picture on her cell phone.
“Wait, I wasn’t ready,” Johnson said, refolding her legs as her teammates groaned impatiently. “I’m sorry.”
Love took the picture again, this time with everyone in perfect position.
Communication has been key for Texas State. The Bobcats have gotten off to their best start in Sun Belt play since the 2014-15 season with a 2-0 record. But the team still feels like it has a ways to go to reach their potential.
“We’re doing really good as a team. We’re buying in,” senior guard Toshua Leavitt said. “We’ve still got to build chemistry because we’ve got a lot of new people on the team.
“That’s probably our biggest thing that we’re suffering from right now, is we don’t really have chemistry. I feel like we’re not at our peak yet either, so whenever we start building chemistry, then we can start playing a lot better together and start playing better as a team.”
The problem is a new one for Texas State. Last year, the Bobcats had four seniors who all knew each other’s tendencies and how to complement each other’s games. This season’s squad is chock full of fresh faces, featuring three freshman and a transfer junior in the regular rotation.
Building chemistry takes time. Texas State is trying to expedite the process.
“You’ve got to let the players do a lot more self-coaching,” head coach Zenarae Antoine said. “I’ll tell the coaches, ‘We’re not in the huddle. We’re stepping back.’ Or you can listen in on the huddle. Sometimes we completely listen in, sometimes, we give feedback, sometimes we don’t give feedback at all, sometimes we’re completely removed. So now, they have to work on communicating themselves.”
The work has been paying off. In the team’s two conference victories against Georgia Southern and Georgia State, Leavitt scored a combined 56 points and went 11-17 from behind the arc en route to earning College Sports Madness’ Mid-Major Player of the Week award.
Leavitt was quick to credit her teammates for her hot shooting.
“My teammates have been doing a really good job of finding me whenever we play against teams,” Leavitt said. “So, I obviously create some of my shots myself, but I couldn’t do it and score as much without my teammates passing me the ball.”
Antoine noticed it, too.
“(Leavitt) did a good job finding the gaps, and her teammates found her, honestly,” Antoine said. “She did a good job of finding those gaps in the zone on ball reversals and transition. Those were primarily the ways that she was able to. It wasn’t like we were running a lot of screen action against their zone. She was just able to move and finding herself open in those gaps.”
The Bobcats will continue to figure each other out more so that other players can help Leavitt carry the load. The team planned on eating at McAlister’s after Wednesday’s practice. Leavitt planned on getting the chicken caesar wrap.
The players are hoping it’ll be the recipe for success.
Texas State (7-7, 2-0 Sun Belt) hosted Coastal Carolina (8-5, 0-2) on Thursday inside Strahan Arena. The game ended after press time. The Bobcats will also host Appalachian State (7-6, 1-1) at home Saturday at 7 p.m.