Kemp a Familiar Force

It is a season of change for the University of Kansas women's basketball program. As the "Bonnie Ball" era begins in Lawrence, a lot of things will be different. The 2004-2005 season will showcase a new head coach, new assistants and a new coaching style on the Kansas sideline. All of the new additions are sure to bring a great level of excitement to Allen Fieldhouse this fall, and hopefully success will follow not too far behind.

One key ingredient in the new winning recipe that won't have to change from a season ago is a healthy dose of Crystal Kemp. Last year's team MVP and leading scorer is back for her junior campaign and can't wait to see where the new coaching staff can take her.

It didn't take new Head Coach Bonnie Henrickson long to sell Kemp on her vision for the program. The staff's work ethic has also really inspired the 6-foot-2 star forward.

"They all work really hard," Kemp said of the new staff. "It's hard to catch them in the office because they're always out recruiting or trying to figure out a way to make things just a little bit better every day."

Kemp seems to be getting better by the day as well. The Topeka native has enjoyed a very productive off-season and is looking forward to showcasing more range and consistency with her jump shot in the upcoming year.

"I'm definitely developing a better shot right now," said Kemp. "I'm becoming more confident with that. The coaches are recognizing that. Not to say that I'm going to be outside-shooting it, but I'm probably going to get the green light which is a plus for me coming in with a new coaching staff."

The improved stroke should help Kemp not only build on her team leading 13.4 points per game from a season ago, but also shoulder the load she'll now have to carry as the primary post player. With Tamara Ransburg, Lauren Ervin and Kandis Bonner no longer on the team, Kemp's role inside will be even more important in 2004. The junior forward will especially miss Ransburg.

"It's going to be really hard," Kemp admitted. "It's especially tough because of (Ransburg) being a couple of inches taller than myself. Now, I'm a couple of inches taller than our next tallest player It's going to be hard but just like how I worked with Tamara, I can come in and develop that same chemistry with some one else."

The departed talent and thinner bench also has Kemp thinking about staying out of foul trouble. If the Jayhawks want to have any kind of frontcourt success in the year ahead, Kemp has to stay on the floor. The former Topeka High Trojan is well aware of that.

"The only thing that will probably be a worrying factor for us will probably be foul trouble, especially with our post play because there are only four of us," Kemp said. "Probably one or two of us are actually, truly post players. So, that's probably the only difficult challenge we'll have to face, staying out of foul trouble."

Seniors Blair Waltz and Aquanita Burras will team up with Kemp to lead the ‘04-‘05 Jayhawks. That foursome has set some pretty impressive goals for the first year of the Bonnie Henrickson era, including a finish in the top half of the Big 12 Conference standings. Kemp thinks such goals are realistic because of the new addition of Henrickson and her staff.

"Even in the past two years with what we had, we had a lot of close games," Kemp explained. "We just never really put them together. I just think the fact that Bonnie works so hard just to put those other pieces together [will make a difference]. I just think it's going to come easier for us regardless of what we have on the bench, just with the five that's out there at that present time."

It is clear Kemp is a believer in "Bonnie Ball" and she hopes the fans will be too.

"I think a lot of people are curious to see what Coach Henrickson is going to do," Kemp admitted. "It's definitely a plus [to have a lot of fan support]. They get us motivated. One of the things that Coach Henrickson always talks about is communication being contagious. When we have that out there we tend to communicate better and want to basically satisfy who is coming out to support us."

It is too early to tell just what kind of team Kansas fans will find at the Fieldhouse this year, but all accounts point to Henrickson's first club being a hardworking bunch that has already come together and galvanized their potential under the new leadership. Regardless of what their final record turns out to be, one thing is for sure about the '04-'05 Jayhawks: With fresh faces like Henrickson and familiar forces like Kemp, this year's KU women's basketball team should be a lot of fun to watch.

***

This article originally published in the November issue of Jayhawk Illustrated magazine.

Kansas opens the 2004-05 exhibition season Tuesday, Nov. 9, when the Jayhawks take on Fort Hays State in Allen Fieldhouse with a 7 p.m. tip. Kansas is entering a new era of basketball under the guidance of first year head coach Bonnie Henrickson. In her seven years with the Virginia Tech, Henrickson averaged 23 wins per season and advanced to the postseason each year during her tenure including five NCAA tournaments. The Jayhawks return seven letterwinners including three starters who accounted for 60 percent of the scoring and 41 percent of the rebounding in 2003-04.


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