Game 1
Wednesday, November 6 • 6:30 p.m. CT • Huntsville • Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum
Sam Houston State (0-0, 0-0 Southland) vs Howard Payne (0-0, 0-0 American Southwest)
ESPN3KSHU 90.5 FMLive Stats@BearkatsWBB on Twitter

HUNTSVILLE – The start of Ravon Justice’s second season at the helm of the Sam Houston State women’s basketball program has arrived as the Bearkats will host Howard Payne on Wednesday night to open up the 2019-20 season at Johnson Coliseum.

The game can be watched on ESPN3 or heard on KSHU 90.1 FM. Live stats will also be available, with updates available as the game progresses by following @BearkatsWBB on Twitter.

The Bearkats were picked to finish third in the SLC in the league’s annual preseason poll, just one year after putting together one of the starkest turnarounds in the country when they won 16 games in Justice’s first year in charge.

With eight returners from last year, including three starters and three preseason all-SLC selections, the Kats have high expectations for the season in what looks to be a wide-open Southland Conference that had five teams receive at least one first-place vote in the preseason poll.

The backcourt could be where the Kats see most of their advantage with three key seniors – Jaylonn Walker, Jenniffer Oramas and Rachel Harrell – back for this year. Walker was named the league’s newcomer of the year last season after averaging better than 15 points and two steals per game in her first year as a Kat, while backcourt mate Oramas averaged 13.0 points per game, helping the Kats go from 56.2 points per game in 2017-18 to 74.5 points per game in 2018-19.

Oramas was also one of the top 3-point marksmen in the SLC a year ago, averaging nearly 38 percent from beyond the arc. She enters the year ninth in Bearkat history with 102 3-pointers made in her career, while Harrell is right on her heels in 10th place with 101.

Point guard Faith Cook could also make a big impact after sitting out last season following two years in the backcourt at UTEP. Add in Huntsville native Taryn Archie, senior Tia Harston and freshmen Rahmena Henderson and Sydnee Kemp and the Kats have the makings of a corps of guards to rival any of those in the SLC.

The Kats got a stroke of good fortune when La’Sha Haynes was granted another year with the program, giving the front line instant size, athleticism and maturity following a season that saw her rank in the top 15 in the league in rebounding. She will likely be flanked by sophomore Amber Leggett, who turned in a breakout freshman campaign with 12.4 points and 4.7 rebounds and could be poised for a bigger season in her second year in the program.

Senior post Kiera McKinney gives the Kats instant size and a physical presence in the post, one who possesses the ability to block shots on the defensive end while also step out and knock down midrange jumpers on the offensive side of things.

She will be joined in the front line by Kaylee Jefferson, a Sulphur Springs native who joined SHSU at midyear in 2018-19 from East Carolina and will be eligible beginning in the spring semester of this year.

Justice also made a point to add quality depth to the front line and did so with three from the junior college ranks and a local freshman. Junior college transfers Madelyn Batista, Courtney Cleveland and Alyvia Essex all give the Kats immediate options on the block and while freshman Sandra Cannady should also see early minutes.