Sports Women's Basketball

Ron Hughey confident in Julia Blackshell-Fair’s leadership entering 2020-21

Julia Blackshell-Fair averaged 36.6 minutes per game last season. | File Photo

Julia Blackshell-Fair averaged 36.6 minutes per game last season. | File Photo

Down 19 points to Wichita State at halftime, Houston head coach Ronald Hughey and his staff gave their team a few second-half adjustments to what seemed to be all but the final 20 minutes of the season when junior guard Julia Blackshell-Fair spoke up.

She said the problem wasn’t with the gameplan and asked to speak with just her teammates; the coaches obliged.

“It was incredible for her to do that,” Hughey said. 

While the Cougars were unable to complete the comeback win, they did not let their season end quietly. Houston scored 44 second-half points, and at one point cut Wichita State’s lead to only four before the Shockers sealed the first-round American Athletic Conference Tournament win.

For the Columbia, South Carolina, native head coach, Blackshell-Fair’s impromptu players-only team meeting at halftime is what sparked that furious rally, and it also highlighted her growth as a vocal leader.

As the team now looks forward to the 2020-21 season, Hughey is excited about the incoming talent and confident that the Fairfield, California native guard can lead them to success both on and off the court.

“(Blackshell-Fair) has been through all the wars,” Hughey said last Thursday when he spoke to UH fans on the Coaches Caravan video call. “She took it upon herself to jump into that leadership role last year and is ready to take us where we need to go this year.”

While the Cougars went 12-19 last season, they are optimistic about a quick turnaround in 2020-21 due to the incoming class  as well as the redshirts, who will be eligible to compete after sitting out last year.

Daphane White, who averaged 15.7 points and 11 rebounds at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College last season; Laila Blair, who averaged 24.5 points per game, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists her senior year at Waller High School; and Ca’leyah Burell, another JUCO transfer who averaged 16.3 points and 4.4 rebounds last year for Jacksonville Community College, were three of the players who Hughey pointed out on Thursday.

“I’m excited,” Blackshell-Fair said. “I trust Coach Hughey to recruit the right people who align with our goals … I want to win with whoever we got.”

While the status of how next season will be played if at all is still unclear because of the coronavirus pandemic, Houston’s schedule has already been impacted.

Hughey revealed on Thursday that Houston is now scheduled to play Tennessee, FSU and USC in Florida because of the coronavirus. The original plan was for the teams to play each other in Mexico.

While the University has yet to provide an update on when facilities will reopen after several student-athletes tested positive for the virus, forcing UH athletics to suspend voluntary activities, the women’s basketball team staff and players remain eager about what they’ll be able to show once it’s safe to get on the court.

“I’m excited,” Blackshell-Fair said. “Especially with the redshirts that will now be eligible to play, I’m just excited because I’ve seen what they can do.”

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