The start of the UNO women’s basketball season is just around the corner and interim coach Brittany Lange has 80 percent of her starting lineup figured out.
However, two potential contributors are no longer available for the Mavericks.
Junior college transfer Janairrika Bland, a 6-foot-4 center from Edwards, Miss., is transferring again, Lange said. Meanwhile, sophomore guard Cathleen Cox is out for the season after retearing the knee ligament that kept her out for all but seven games last season.
“We’re looking forward to getting into the flow of games and playing outside competition,” said Lange, whose team will face Division II Lincoln (Mo.) in an exhibition game at 2 p.m. Saturday at Sapp Fieldhouse. “Saturday will be a good test to see where we are. I think we’ve really improved with a young group.”
Bland, a former Southern Mississippi recruit who missed two seasons following open-heart surgery came to UNO averaging 23.9 points and 13.6 rebounds for MCC-Penn Valley (Mo.) last year.
“She decided to transfer, and it’s a mutual agreement and we’re fully supportive of it,” Lange said. “She wants to go somewhere closer to home.”
Lange said it was too early to tell how much of a factor Bland would have been.
“She’s a tremendous talent, but she was working back to get healthy again,” Lange said.
Cox, meanwhile, is out for a second straight season with a torn ACL. She averaged 6.3 points in a regular reserve role in her true freshman season.
“Cat gave us experience in the backcourt and she works as hard as anybody,” Lange said. “She’s a tough kid, but she’s handling it as well as the first time. She came back after a wonderful rehab after surgery. She’s being resilient and tough about this.”
Cox was one of only three players returning to the program this season. The others are starting center Taijhe Kelly, a 6-4 junior, and guard Ericka House, a preseason second-team All-Summit League pick.
Kelly and House, who was the Mavs’ first player off the bench last season, are two of the Mavs’ expected starters.
Lange said they’ll be joined by East Tennessee State transfer Brianna Bogard and freshman Mikaela Shaw of Deweese, Neb., a 6-footer who played at Sandy Creek High School and averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds last season.
“Mikaela Shaw acts like a veteran,” Lange said. “She’s a tough kid. Those four play very well together.”
Two other starting candidates, Lange said, are transfer guard Lanese Bough — capable of playing the four positions other than center — and freshman point guard Madi Robson of Ankeny, Iowa.
“That last one kind of depends on matchups,” Lange said. “But I would like to find that fifth starter.”