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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

How the pandemic shaped women’s basketball careers

Texas+State+Bobcats+hype+each+other+up+before+the+game%2C+Thursday+Feb.+2%2C+at+Strahan+Arena.%26%23160%3B

Texas State Bobcats hype each other up before the game, Thursday Feb. 2, at Strahan Arena. 

Since joining Texas State as freshman in 2018, graduate guards Kennedy Taylor, Ja’Kayla Bowie, graduate center Jaeda Reed and graduate forward Da’Nasia Hood have all competed in nearly 100 games as Bobcats. 
It’s not often a collegiate athlete of any sport completes a four-year career at the same school, and these players polish out five seasons after being granted an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of six graduate students finish their fifth year of eligibility after the 2022-2023 season, but Hood, Taylor, Reed and Bowie managed to complete all five years wearing a Bobcat jersey together.
Head coach Zenarae Antoine believes that the chemistry built between these specific players was bonded partially on the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic and having to return as social athletes together.
“I think that’s really special. It only enhances the positive chemistry that you’re looking for when you hit adverse situations,” Antoine said. “And this team has hit a lot of adversity over the years.”
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in many sports coming to a complete halt in 2020, and further granted these players with a fifth-and-final year of eligibility for the 2022-2023 basketball season.
The fifth-year eligibility clause helped Texas State reach the top of the Sun Belt in 2023 for the first time in 15 years by utilizing one of the most experienced rosters in the conference.
Antoine is mostly impressed by the ability of her players to maintain focus and a winning mentality after returning from a global pandemic. She also believes these unique experiences created a stronger bond and inspired these athletes to finish what was started as freshmen in 2018.
“I would tell you this is definitely the cherry on top that they stayed through all of that,” Antoine said. “I’m just so proud of them, because my expectation was that we would’ve been [to the championship] a year ago, but who can predict a global pandemic?” 
Reed believes that the fifth-year experience was enough to inspire a winning mentality during her final season.
“Having that fifth year I think we did have a lot more experience than a lot of other seniors, because we were like super seniors,” Reed said. “So, it was kind of different because not many people even get to that fourth year.”
Hood, Bowie and Taylor have all reached over 130 games played in their careers since starting out together as freshmen, with Reed completing 97 games herself.
Bowie constantly brags about the culture that this team was able to build at Texas State over the past five years.
“I tell everybody because no one really ever has this experience,” Bowie said. “And it’s crazy because none of us ever think anything of it. We all want to be here.”
Reed said her teammates helped inspire her to improve her game following her sophomore year and credits the leadership of Bowie for her ability to inspire others with her work on the court.
“I learned from [Bowie]; watching her grow as a person and as a basketball player inspired me,” Reed said. “Her growth on the basketball court made me force myself to grow so I can be a contribution to the team in some way.”
Bowie said the bond she’s built with her teammates over the years can never be broken and she looks forward to being a part of the Bobcat culture forever.
“I’ll still be here, I don’t plan on going anywhere,” Bowie said. “I plan on donating a little money in the future also. I’m a Bobcat for life.”
Antoine doesn’t like to look too far ahead but expresses tremendous gratitude for how her “COVID seniors” managed to stay persistent and finish out their final year strong.
“I’ll forever be thankful for this 2023 class, because they went through COVID and there is just so much tied to what that stress meant,” Antoine said. “And them staying, having six COVID seniors is absolutely wonderful to say that they wanted to be here for this.”

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