Baylor Ladybears

Kristy Wallace and the Baylor women’s basketball team began practice Friday for the upcoming season.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte, file

As Kristy Wallace began talking about her time playing with the Australian National Team over the summer Kalani Brown leaned over into her microphone and said with a smile, “I blocked her shot.”

Wallace immediately started laughing and said, “She’s lying.”

The Baylor senior guard finished as the runner-up with the Australian U23 National Team at the U24 Four Nations Tournament in Tokyo, where Brown and Team USA won gold. Wallace also competed with Australia’s Emerging Opals, which won gold at the 2017 World University Games in Chinese Taipei.

“That was really exciting,” Wallace said. “We got to play a tournament in Japan together, which was really fun. I got to go to Taiwan as well and we ended up getting the gold medal, which was really exciting. Had a great experience overseas getting to play against different styles and just learning off different coaches and players. Hopefully I can bring that to the court this year.”

Fans turn out for practice

As the Lady Bears took the floor for their first official practice of the 2017-18 season on Friday, around 100 fans cheered and stood to their feet to welcome the Baylor women’s basketball team to the court. As many of the fans entered the Ferrell Center Friday afternoon, the talk centered around how excited they were for basketball season to finally begin.

“It’s wonderful,” coach Kim Mulkey said. “We have more fans who come to our practices than a lot of teams have go to their games. They love their Lady Bears.”

The Lady Bear faithful oohed with every good pass, aahed with every made jumper and cheered with delight during a game of dribble tag. Each Baylor player had a basketball and dribbled around during a game of tag that was limited to half of the court.

As practice went on, a few of the fans discussed how impressed they were with the freshmen – Alexis Morris, Trinity Oliver, Didi Richardss and Moon Ursin.

“They’re really good,” Wallace said. “They’re exciting players and bring lots of energy to the court. We’ve got great leaders on the team that are going to push them and further them in their game. It will be interesting to see how they progress in the year.”

Quickness abundant in backcourt

With the addition of a quartet of freshmen guards the Lady Bears got a whole lot quicker over the offseason. What that class may lack in height, as only Richards is taller than 6 feet, they make up for with speed.

“We’re very quick,” Mulkey said. “We’re very, very quick on the perimeter, yet we still have good size inside.”

While that speed will be key offensively, especially in transition. Mulkey mentioned that the Lady Bears could do something like Nolan Richardson’s 40 minutes of hell. That 1994 national champion Arkansas team put up a shot within around seven seconds of getting possession and increased the pressure on defense with traps and full court pressure.

“He had guards and pressured you all over the floor,” Mulkey said. “I think you could see some of that. Now, that would be great, but I can’t wear them out and I can’t get into foul trouble. There could be potential to see some of that in a lot of games to go out there and go small. We do have the quickness to be able to do that.”

Can’t afford bumps, bruises

Mulkey admits she worries more about what she can’t control than what she can. This season, with only 10 players on the roster, her main concern is injuries.

“Certainly with 10 players we don’t have the depth that we normally do,” Mulkey said. “I don’t need but five. We’ll make do. They can all play.”

Of those 10 players, seven are guards, leaving three players to go to work inside.

“When Kalani and Cox are in foul trouble or they need a rest we can go with a smaller lineup,” Mulkey said. “I don’t know how well we will match up defensively. It will depend on the size of the other team. We will prepare for all those scenarios.

Through the first practice, Natalie Chou worked some at the power forward position. Chou, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, shot a team high 42.3 percent from the 3-point line.

“She would be a mismatch for the other team,” Mulkey said. “They have to come out and guard Natalie. If they don’t Natalie can shoot it from the perimeter. I think there’s some exciting things we can do if I play Natalie as a post player.”

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