Julia Blackshell-Fair, Cougars have eyes set on redemption for 2020-21
After months of being away from campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Houston women’s basketball team is glad to be back at its training facility and beginning workouts as the excitement for the 2020-21 season optimistically builds.
“It’s a fantastic time to be a Cougar,” newly hired assistant coach Deneen Parker said on Thursday evening during a Zoom video call with the program’s supporters. “I can’t begin to tell everyone how excited I am to be working with this group of young ladies (and) the staff. It’s a family atmosphere.”
The word excitement was the recurring theme from the Cougars on Thursday. The team is ready to put the tough 2019-20 season in the rearview mirror.
“I feel like we all have the same goal in mind … we want to win,” sophomore forward Bria Patterson said. “I want to be recognized more as a team and as winners.”
A big reason for the optimism heading into next season is the plethora of redshirts who are eligible to play.
Sophomore guard Miya Crump, sophomore guard Britney Onyeje and guard Paris Netherly all sat out the 2019-20 campaign as redshirts and cannot wait to make an impact on the court for Houston.
“We’ve got shooters,” Parker said. “We’ve got drivers. We’ve got bigs that are going to post up and bang. It’s one of the most exciting teams I’ve been a part of.”
With 16 players on the roster for this coming season, the Cougars solved one woe from 2019-20, which was having enough players to give the team’s leaders chances to rest.
Both guards Julia Blackshell-Fair and Dymond Gladney averaged over 36 minutes per game last season.
For Blackshell-Fair specifically, she is also adjusting to embracing the leadership void that was left by forward Dorian Branch, who graduated from UH.
“It is still different,” Blackshell-Fair said. “Coach Hughey is still trying to nudge me. I’d rather lead by example … On the court, I’ll just be quiet sometimes. I’m still learning.”
While the 5-foot-7-inch guard continues to work on taking the reins of the Cougars, her teammates are supporting her throughout the process.
“It makes it easier to be a leader when everyone has a goofy personality,” she said. “I know that if I say something, it won’t hurt my teammates’ feelings.”
As the status for basketball in the latter end of the fall term is still uncertain, the goal for Houston the next time it steps on the court is simple.
“(We want to) redeem ourselves because last season was not us,” Blackshell-Fair said.
“I want more people to be able to come to our games to see what we are made of too, and just show them what we have and what we can do.”