Archdeacon: COVID postponement latest setback for UD women’s hoops

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

The University of Dayton’s women’s basketball game against Richmond scheduled for Saturday at UD Arena has been cancelled because two of the Flyers eight remaining players have COVID and some of the others have been exposed to it.

Freshman guard Nayo Lear is also dealing with a badly sprained ankle and would not have played anyway.

Shannon Wheeler has been lost for the season after shoulder surgery last month and another player, junior Maliya Perry, is dealing with “personal issues” as head coach Tamika Williams-Jeter put it, and has not played in the last six games.

Last week, after the Flyers, who are now 4-17, lost to Duquesne at UD Arena, Williams Jeter surprised her assistant coaches when she returned to the locker room.

“I think they were like, ‘Uuh-oh, she’s about to go off!’” Williams-Jeter said with laugh as she took a break in her Cronin Center office Friday morning.

Instead, she just hit the wall, slid down, sat there and said:

“’I think I must have Ebola or the Black Plague, too. I’ve never had worse luck from the basketball gods than I’ve had this year.’

“I mean, what else can happen?’”

Forget Rudy Flyer with his goggles and that big square chin.

The mascots for the UD women’s team should be locusts.

As in a plague of locusts.

This is the second time COVID has hit the mostly-vaccinated team.

And injuries have been ongoing.

The season began with Arianna Smith, a transfer from Indiana State, sidelined after a massive knee surgery in the spring.

The Flyers already had a thin roster before that. After coach Shauna Green left for Illinois, she took the best player and another good one with her. Three others transferred too, five graduated and an incoming freshman decommitted.

That left Williams-Jeter with four little-used players and not much time to cobble together a roster.

Early this season various players missed games to injuries and then Wheeler tore her labrum after playing 12 games.

Lear was really coming into her own just a week ago. She had scored 17 points against Duquesne and then made 11 straight in the third quarter of last Saturday’s game at George Washington before rolling her ankle. She still finished with a team-high 18 points.

Junior Destiny Bohanon, who leads the team with 12.7 points per game average and is the Flyers; backbone, has dealt with multiple injuries.

“She’s the walking wounded, but she pours heart out every game and then pays for it afterward,” Williams-Jeter said.

Early in the season point guard Sydney Freeman missed three games for what she said were “personal reasons” and transfer Taisiya Kozlova, who is from Russia, is dealing with her own issues.

She talked with me about some of them before the season began.

Last season, as she stood with her Maryland teammates on the court before an NCAA Tournament game, she held a hand-drawn sign that simply read “Stop War”

She was against her country’s invasion of Ukraine and wrote similar sentiment on her basketball shoes.

Her parents, who live in Moscow, have other views and that, among other things, has strained their relationship, Before this, Kozlova had talked to her mother every day.

One of the hardest workers on the team, she’s tried to find solace in the gym and Williams-Jeter said there have been times “we’ve had to tell her to take it easy and go back (to her apartment.)”

On the plus side Kozlova had one of her best outings of the season when she made 4 of 9 three pointers and finished with 12 points in the Flyers’ 81-68 victory at Loyola last Wednesday night.

In the triumph — their third in Atlantic 10 conference play — the Flyers used only six players.

“During a TV time out, they looked like they were in a war movie when they were coming back to the bench,” Williams-Jeter said. “George (assistant coach George Washington) was like. ‘C’mon, sprint in!’

“And I was like, ‘They’ve got nothing left!’

“But they went back out and left everything on the court. I was so proud of them. Just so proud.”

Actually, Williams-Jeter has a few things feel good about lately.

Just before the Loyola game, she received word she’d been named one of the 25 greatest Minnesota Lynx players of all time. The WNBA team will honor her at its June 9 game.

And Thursday night she was part of an impressive panel who took part in the “Who’s in the Jersey” program put on by Dayton Public Schools Athletics at Belmont High on National Girls & Women in Sports Day.

The group spoke to nearly 400 girl athletes from Dayton’s six public high schools. as well as some from Trotwood Madison and Springfield Catholic Central.

The program was a rousing success and once, when Williams-Jeter rose off her chair and proudly pulled out the UD jersey she wore so all could see it, the athletes erupted in loud cheers.

This Wednesday she and her players will get even louder support when UD hosts its annual Education Day game for grade school kids Wednesday morning.

“They’ve had big crowds before but never like this,” Williams Jeter said. “They told me 10,000 kids are expected to be there.”

Friday, with her team mending, she had a few moments of personal time in her office Friday.

She told me she’d been listening to Dizzy Gillespie and Louie Armstrong.

With the latter, you hoped instead of his “St. Louis Blues,” she was hearing “What a Wonderful World.”

After this season, she doesn’t need more blues.

She deserves:

“Trees of green,

“Red roses, too.”

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