Last year, the Rutgers women’s basketball team opened its season with a game against St. Francis — a school that had gone a respectable 24-10 in the previous year. The Scarlet Knights won that matchup by a final score of 96-52 and went on to accumulate a 22-10 overall record for the rest of the season.
This year, Rutgers will open its season with a matchup against South Alabama — a team that garnered a .694 winning percentage in the 36 games the Jaguars played in the 2018-2019 season. While the outcome of the game is not yet known, what can be assuredly be discussed is the fact that the Knights will have their work cut out for them as they look to start off their season on the right foot and in the win-column.
Prior to the end of the 2018-2019 season, Rutgers was able to put a group of women out on the court that including alumnae players Stasha Carey, Victoria Harris and Charise Wilson.
These members of the Knights' program were responsible for providing a source of veteran leadership for a team that was introducing three true freshman and four sophomores to head coach C. Vivian Stringer and her way of coaching at the Banks.
With all three of these players now gone, Rutgers will take to the court in Mobile, Alabama, with a new group of experienced basketball players ready to take control of a team embarking on a season full of expectations.
Graduate student guard Khadaizha Sanders (or “KK,” as her teammates and coaches refer to her as) is embarking on her fifth year as a member of the women’s basketball team.
While coming back to play for her school for an extra year seems like a relatively common motive for most graduate student players, it's important to note exactly what Sanders went through last season that propelled her to make this decision.
After being forced to sit out the entire 32 games her team played the previous season as a result of an injury that the guard had sustained during the 2018 calendar year, Sanders was given the opportunity of whether to come back and play for the Knights the following season.
Though it would require some conditioning and practice to do so, she ultimately took up the chance to play under Stringer for another year and will now prepare to put into her play everything that she has worked for over the past year when Rutgers takes on South Alabama on Tuesday night.
Helping Sanders manage the load will be fellow graduate student guard Danielle Migliore and senior center Jordan Wallace. The two players, though differentiating in their levels of experience in the Knights’ program, will assuredly hope to provide a source of stability for Sanders and the rest of their team as the two women combined for a total of 54 appearances in the 2018-2019 season.
Though Rutgers will hope to pull off a win in the Jaguars’ home town with a team-wide contribution, the efforts of Sanders, Migliore and Wallace will be instrumental in assuring that it happens, considering the fact that South Alabama is a tough opponent with a multitude of experienced players.
Tuesday night will undoubtedly be a challenge for Stringer and her players. With a new source of leadership, it will be interesting to see how they handle it. The outcome of it will be telling as to how they did.