Photo by Maddie Schroeder
Kiyanna Black began her collegiate basketball career as the third leading scorer on one of the worst squads the Ohio University women’s basketball team had ever seen. Before she notched her place in the record books as the second-highest scorer in program history and the leader in most 3-point field goals made in a season, Black helped lead the 2014-15 team during one of the best seasons in program history.
Black, the two-time All-MAC First Team awardee, left her mark on Ohio in a big way. She helped the squad earn an NCAA Tournament bid and the title of back-to-back Mid-American Conference regular season champions. Black played her last game for Ohio in the third round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) where the Bobcats suffered a 61-75 loss to Temple University.
The close of the 2015-16 season ended Black’s career at Ohio and left one question on Ohio fans’ minds: Who’s next?
“I’m very concerned about replacing what KB did for us in a number of ways,” fourth-year coach Bob Boldon says. “… We have some people, and I’m excited to see if they can do it. … I’m anxious to see who steps up and fills that void, and I think we have players that have the ability to do so.”
The point guard position can be compared to that of the quarterback in football. A point guard initially controls where the ball goes and is a team’s playmaker and decision-maker. Filling that position is a focus during recruitment and can set the tone for how the rest of the team is formed and coached.
With the loss of Black, Ohio enters the 2016-17 season with a few uncertainties in the point guard position, but there is still hope that the team will find similar success this year in seniors Taylor Agler and Yamonie Jenkins.
“One of the big things I wanted to focus on was becoming an all-around better scorer and working on all facets of my game,” Agler says. “I don’t want to focus on just the 3-point shot, and that’s something I kept in the back of my head last year. KB really helped me with that.”
Agler started her collegiate athletic career at Indiana University in 2013 and helped the team earn a 21-13 overall record during her freshman season. The Westerville, Ohio, native started in all 34 games as a freshman and averaged 7.8 points per game. She also tied for the team lead in steals during her freshman year with 36 and finished the season in assists with 65.
“When I went to Indiana, it was a program that was rebuilding so I was able to start as a freshmen,” Agler says. “I got to step into a leadership role pretty early. I got to play a lot of minutes against really good teams and I think that helped me a lot. ”
In high school, Agler played for All-Ohio, a Columbus-based Amature Athletic Union (AAU) girl’s travel basketball team. While playing for All Ohio, Agler met several other current members of the Ohio roster including senior guard Quiera Lampkins, senior forward Jasmine Weatherspoon and fellow point guard Jenkins.
“We’re really close,” Jenkins says. “She was always my roommate during those AAU trips, and we used to always be together and be point guards together, leading the team.”
Jenkins, a regular leader on the team and on the court, has played in nearly every game over the past four years and started in 31 out of 33 games last season. The point guard averaged 7.2 points per game and finished the season with a .81 free-throw percentage, the second highest on the team. Jenkins was also the second highest in assists with 99. The senior recorded a career-high 18 points in the 2015-16 season as well as a career-high in free throws with eight.
Jenkins helped the 2015-16 squad earn the MAC Championship title for the second time after the team produced a disappointing 9-21 record during her freshman season. Jenkins says those highs and lows have helped her to grow into her current leadership role.
“I think my role is the same,” Jenkins says. “… Basically, I need to be an extended version of Bob on the court. I think my role is the same, but I just have to be better at it.”
Although Alger was not able to play for Ohio last season due to her transfer year of ineligibility, the senior has shown her exceptional skills and abilities in practice and is sure to add to the competitive nature of the squad.
“[Agler’s] ability to play with the ball in her hands is something we’ve never really had,” Boldon says. “… I think her ability to be multi-dimensional is what excites us the most. She’s a very willing passer and she’s kind of trying to find where she fits from a passing and shooting standpoint. She’s able to do both of them.”
The combination of Agler, an experienced transfer, and Jenkins, a consistent leader, will introduce an exciting dynamic to the point guard position.
“I think we’re really good at holding each other accountable as well as picking each other up,” Agler says. “Because we do play the same position, we know what the other one is going through, so I think we’re really good at just keeping each other level-headed.”
The duo will not only face pressure to perform on the offensive side of the ball, but also on defense. Black was the leading scorer for Ohio, but she also proved to be a defensive threat to her opponents. Black recorded a total of five blocks and 55 steals while grabbing 108 defensive rebounds in the 2015-16 season, which made her one of the top four rebounders on the team.
“I want to be the best shooter and scorer I can be and focus on my defense a lot,” Agler says. “That’s something I’ve really struggled with … I just want to become the best defender I can be.”
With defense as a focus for improvement and scoring a consistent concern for filling the point-producing shoes Black left, the two point guards will have to use their individual skill sets to lead Ohio through the season. Although Black played an instrumental role for Ohio, the 2016-17 season will focus on the talent of this year’s team as it looks to make another run at the MAC Championship title and earn a NCAA Tournament bid.
“KB was a main scorer of ours and a main leader,” Agler says. “I think Monnie [Jenkins] and I both have to step up in the scoring area and in leadership and just try to fill KB’s void that she left. That’s going to be a big problem for us this year if we don’t.”