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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) robs a home run from Florida infielder Cade Kurland (4) in the top of the ninth inning during Texas A&M’s game against Florida at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Sunday, June 15, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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June 16, 2024

Blair prepares for season with new additions to Aggie women’s roster

Sophomore%26%23160%3B%26%23160%3BAahliyah+Jackson+drives+towards+the+basket+against+an+OCU+defender.
Photo by Photo by Paul Burke

Sophomore  Aahliyah Jackson drives towards the basket against an OCU defender.

For the first time in Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair’s 38-year career, he will be starting five sophomores. 
Despite this being a first for him, Blair said he believes in the capacity of his young team.  
“I think they’ve earned it,” Blair said.
Seven and a half months after their 90-84 loss to No. 1 Notre Dame, the Aggies return to the court to face Rice on Wednesday night. Blair said the road ahead for the women’s program will be a hard one.
 “We’re a work in progress right now,” Blair said. “We’re going to start five sophomores — I’ve never done that before — but that sets up well for the future.” 
 With Khaalia Hillsman no longer on the roster after graduating from the program, Blair said one of the biggest tasks he has this season is finding someone to replace Hillsman in five spot — also known as the center or post position. 
 “We’re trying to find some scoring at the post position,” Blair said. “That [was] bothering me, but then I went and looked at some stats from 2008. We almost made the final four with my five player averaging 4.6 points, so there are other ways to score.”
 However, Blair said he isn’t too worried about finding the right person immediately. 
 “It’s sort of like a toss salad right now,” Blair said. “I don’t know what we’re going to start with, but I’m going to keep adding. … That’s what you have to do here. You have to find out what is going to work in November and December. That way, by January, you know what your eight-player rotation is all about.”
 At the end of last season, Danni Williams and Anriel Howard announced their intentions to transfer out of the program. Williams went to Texas, and Howard went to Mississippi State. Leading up to the home opener, Blair didn’t want to talk about Williams or Howard, saying the only players that matter to him are the 14 on his roster. 
 “I will always keep up with Anriel and Danni through what they have accomplished, but right now it’s time to worry about this year’s team,” Blair said.
Despite having four transfer players on his roster, Blair said he believes students transferring from one program to another is hurting college athletics.
“I am not a vindictive person, but transfers around the country in every sport is what is hurting all sports,” Blair said. “We believe in signing a kid for four years, not one. We believe in letting that Aggie connection help them in the next 40. Not just a ring and getting out in three years, but an Aggie connection for years and the contacts you make.”
 According to Blair, women’s basketball is the only program that sends its players to the Aggie 100 — a program which recognizes the 100 fastest growing Aggie-owned or Aggie-led businesses in the world. Blair said he asks to have his players sit at tables which align closely with their post-grad interests in an effort to establish future connections. 
 “I want my student-athletes, particularly juniors and seniors, to sit at different tables that [match] their major,” Blair said. “[I want them] to hear the stories of these Aggies that have [run] their own business.” 
No. 20 Texas A&M kicks off its season Wednesday night as the Aggies host Rice at 6 p.m. in Reed Arena.

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