The UT Arlington Lady Mavs are prepping for a return to the Western Athletic Conference. And they do so with a roster full of experience, athleticism and an attitude of toughness.
Head coach Shereka Wright returns a WAC Player of the Year candidate in Starr Jacobs. And despite losing three captains, Wright brought in three new Division I transfers. This includes Jireh Washington out of Arkansas State who torched the Mavericks in both games last season.
There is a level of toughness to this UT Arlington squad that has Shereka Wright excited. It is what sets Starr Jacobs apart from others on the floor. The WAC will be challenging. But, the Lady Mavs know how to win and love the competition they will face in 2022-23.
Coming off a 20-8 season in which the Lady Mavs won the Sun Belt Conference tournament, expectations are quite high in 2022-23. After nearly upsetting 3-seed Iowa State in the NCAA Tournament, head coach Shereka Wright wants to keep the momentum alive. And with WAC Player of the Year candidate Starr Jacobs, and other experience veterans, the sky may be the limit for the Lady Mavs in 2022-23. And that is saying a lot considering UT Arlington re-joins the Western Athletic Conference.
Shereka Wright, Third Season
2021-22 Season Record:
20-8 overall, 11-4 Sun Belt (2nd Place)
Won the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, Lost to 3-seed Iowa State in NCAA Tournament
Terryn Milton – Graduation
Claire Chastain – Graduation
Katie Ferrell – Graduation
Kamaria Gipson 6-3, Jr., C, Transfer (San Diego State)
Nicole Sanfilippo 5-9, Fr., G, Arosley High School
Nya Threatt 5-6, Fr., G, Dulles High School
Jireh Washington 5-9, Gr., G, Transfer (Arkansas State)
Taleyah Jones 5-11, Fr., G, Broken Arrow High School
Bella Ringenberg 6-3, Fr., C, Sanger High School
Alexsyah Goudeau 5-10, Fr., G, Tahlequah High School
Kayla White 5-10, Gr., G, Transfer (SMU)
Starr Jacobs 6-2, R-Sr., F
De’Sha Benjamin 6-0, Sr., G
Shyia Smith 5-11, Sr., F
Reniya Jones 5-8, So., G
Stephanie Mosley 6-0, So., G
Jordyn Turner 6-2, So., F
1 – Kayla White
2 – Jireh Washington
3 – De’Sha Benjamin
4 – Shyia Smith
5- Starr Jacobs
On paper, the Lady Mavericks have among the deepest rosters in the conference. All five projected starters with significant Division I experience. And the Lady Mavs have a good amount of bench players that had big roles in last year’s Sun Belt tournament title run.
Reniya Jones played in 23 games and averaged 1.7 points. Jordyn Turner also appeared in 18 games. Both will be called upon in significantly bigger roles in 2022-23.
A big key for the roster will be who plays the wing behind De’Sha Benjamin. Last year, both Claire Chastain and Katie Ferrell played that role extremely well. With both of them off to the Big 12, the Lady Mavs do not have a true wing behind Benjamin. Who will step into those shoes for Shereka Wright and the Lady Mavs?
That situation will create unique lineups, where the Mavericks play small when Benjamin is off the floor. Having a lineup with Arkansas State transfer Jireh Washington, SMU transfer Kayla White and Jones on the floor could be common. Even though none of them are taller than 5-10.
But the focus will be on WAC Player of the Year candidate Starr Jacobs. The Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year averaged 21.0 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Jacobs was also named the SBC Tournament MVP and a First Team All-Sun Belt selection. Jacobs’ ability to play with her back to the basketball while also being able to take defenders off the dribble make her a dangerous weapon from anywhere on the floor. Along with that, head coach Shereka Wright loves the the toughness she sees in her senior star. It is what makes her an even better competitor and leader.
Building a Culture
Wright brought in five freshmen, the second-straight year she has brought in five or more. In Wright’s first year in 2020-2021, UTA had one true freshman on the roster. It is all about building a culture. And having a mix of experienced veterans with a group of talented freshman is part of the process.
Many programs rely on the transfer portal and although UTA has a fair share of transfer portal players, Wright stays true to high school roots.
All five of the Mavericks projected starters came through the transfer portal.
Still, Wright went guard heavy, as she brought in four freshmen guards and center Bella Ringenberg.
Maverick fans and the WAC will get to know this team and its ceiling through its non-conference alone. UT Arlington has four Power 6 games, with two on the road, one neutral-site and one home.
After Texas Southern and Texas A&M-Commerce, the Lady Mavs travel to Lawrence, KS on Nov. 16 to play Kansas. The Jayhawks won 21 games last year and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Four days later, UTA gets a second taste of the Big 12 with the Maggie Dixon Classic in Fort Worth against Oklahoma.
The final trio of Big 12 opponents concludes with finishing a home-and-home series with Baylor as they travel to the Ferrell Center on Dec. 7.
It’s the second straight year the Lady Mavericks will host a Top-10 opponent. Last year’s national runner up, Arizona, is heading to the College Park Center on Dec. 21.
The number of key games does not stop in the non-conference slate. UTA opens up WAC play with a road game against California Baptist, who won 23 games, boasting a 9-4 record at home last year.
They will have a return trip with the Lancers Jan. 26 in Arlington.
The Lady Mavericks got the top two teams from the WAC last year both home and away. The final two games of the season being at Grand Canyon and home against Stephen F. Austin.
Some Final Thoughts
The transfer portal is imprinted all over UT Arlington as all five of the expected projected starters are transfers.
Most teams that have six seniors departing may see a decline in expectations. That is not the case for the Lady Mavs. They have a Player of the Year candidate, scoring ability, talent, size and a lot of experience.
With what Sherek Wright has returned and brought in through the transfer portal, all the eyes will be in Arlington.
Whether they meet their own expectations or not, will be up to them. Do not be surprised if the Lady Mavericks add another trophy to its case once the lights turn off in Las Vegas on March 11.