Point guard rates as a point of uncertainty for the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team this offseason.
Everyone who played the critical position for the Lobos last season is gone.
Cherise Beynon and Laneah Bryan were seniors, and then-freshman N’Dea Flye transferred out after the season. That means whoever ends up running the point in UNM’s 2018-19 season opener will be doing it for the first time.
“Yeah, it was pretty simple last year,” Lobos coach Mike Bradbury conceded. “Cherise was going to play most of the time and we filled in around her. It’s a little more complicated now.”
While four-year starters like Beynon don’t grow on trees, Bradbury believes he’s assembled a quality crop of point guards. Junior transfer Aisia Robertson, sophomore Madi Washington and freshman Jayla Everett are working at the position this summer — a trend that may continue well into the fall.
“All three will probably get minutes at (point guard),” Bradbury said, “especially early in the season. They all bring different things to the table and we have to figure out which combination makes us best.”
There will be learning curves for all three contenders. Robertson did not play point guard in her two seasons at Kansas, while Washington spent last season learning shooting-guard responsibilities at UNM. Everett, meanwhile, is still learning Bradbury’s system and figuring out what her new teammates can do.
“It’s going to be interesting,” rising senior post Jaisa Nunn said. “We all got so used to Cherise running the show, but we’ll adjust. The point guards we have now can definitely play.”
Robertson may have an edge in experience, despite the fact she’s never played a game in New Mexico. Robertson ran the point for the Lobos’ scout team at practice last season and spent home games watching and learning.
“It was so hard,” Robertson said, “seeing the fans and thinking, ‘Man, I really want to play here.’ But I grew up playing off the ball and I knew I needed to learn more about playing the point. I told myself to pay close attention and really tried to build my basketball IQ.”
Robertson is likely the quickest Lobo and has a knack for getting past defenders and breaking down defenses off the dribble. Even Beynon struggled to stay in front of Robertson during practice drills last season.
“I’m waiting for her to cross someone over and put them on the floor,” Nunn said. “AR (Robertson) has speed, she drives hard to the basket and she brings it every single time.”
Washington, on the other hand, grew up playing point guard and looks forward to handling the ball more regularly than she did as a freshman. The left-hander also has quickness in her repertoire and can make opponents pay for backing off. Washington hit 39 3-pointers off the bench last season, shooting 37 percent from behind the arc.
“It’s funny because (Robertson) and I are buddies off the court,” Washington
said. “She actually coached me at off-guard last season and now we go at each other in practice every day. The biggest thing (Robertson) tells me is not to pass up open shots. She’ll come at me if I do that — but I like to shoot anyway.”
The 5-foot-11 Everett also has shown a smooth shooting stroke at workouts and gives UNM extra length when she plays the point. Robertson is 5-9, while Washington stands 5-8. Everett, who averaged 16.9 points per game and was named Missouri’s Class 5A high school player of the year last season, appears comfortable playing with or without the ball in her hands.
“You can probably say that about all three of them,” Bradbury said, “and all three are going to play, whether they win the position or not. Right now I’d say AR is our most aggressive point guard, Madi’s more conservative and shoots the 3 well, and Jayla can really shoot from about anywhere. We’ll see how they progress but I like that we have different options. You can never have too many point guards.”