Texas A&M's women's basketball team opened its 2016-17 season with its first official practice on Tuesday inside the Cox-McFerrin Center for Aggie Basketball. The Aggies qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the 11th consecutive year in 2015-16.
Hall of Fame head coach Gary Blair returns for his 14th season in charge of the Aggie program. Under Blair, who is 14th all-time with 717 career wins, the Aggies have made five Sweet 16s, three Elite Eights, and won the 2011 NCAA National Championship.
The Aggies return two starters, Khaalia Hillsman and Anriel Howard, from the team that finished second in the SEC in 2015-16, posting the Aggies' 11th straight 20+ win season with a 22-10 record.
Howard, a SEC All-Freshman team selection, averaged 6.5 rebounds in 2015-16, including an NCAA Tournament record 27 rebounds against Missouri State in the First Round. Hillsman averaged 7.3 points and 5.3 rebounds as a sophomore in 2015-16, including eight 10+ point games and a clutch game-tying basket to send the game at No. 14 Duke to overtime.
The Aggies look to reload with not only five newcomers, but expanded roles from several returning players. Curtyce Knox, who has averaged 6.4 points and 4.0 in eight starts over the past two seasons, looks to provide senior leadership from the guard position. Senior Taylor Cooper, junior Jasmine Lumpkin and sophomore Danni Williams all have started for Texas A&M in their careers and return for the 2016-17 campaign.
Five newcomers join the squad, as freshman Aahliyah Jackson (Ft. Smith, Ark.), Rakell Spencer (New Orleans, La.) and Jasmine Williams (Houston, Texas) join the team, along with junior college transfers Caylinne Martin (McLennan CC) and Walnatia Wright (Midland JC).
Texas A&M's first public event for its basketball squads is Maroon Madness on Oct. 27 at 8 p.m. inside Reed Arena, which will include on-court entertainment and other fan-friendly events. The Aggies host an exhibition against Oklahoma City on Nov. 5, and tip off the regular season by hosting Central Arkansas on Nov. 13 at Reed Arena.