There are various paths to scoring 1,000 points in a college basketball career, but each of them are illuminated by a key factor: consistency.
Arkansas Tech University senior guard Jayana Sanders has developed that characteristic through hard work, and that’s how she became the 29th Golden Sun to reach the 1,000-point plateau during Tech’s season-opening 80-40 win over Champion Christian College on Saturday.
“Jayana is the hardest worker on our team,” said Dave Wilbers, who is beginning his 14th season as Arkansas Tech’s head women’s basketball coach. “She comes out and works on her game all the time. She does a lot of individual workouts, and she wants to have a great year.”
Sanders has regularly adapted her game to meet the needs of her team over the past four years.
There have been times when injuries to teammates have caused her to take on more of a scorer’s mentality. At other times, she has morphed into a prototypical point guard and proven to be an expert distributor of the basketball. Her 329 career assists represent the 10th-highest career total in Arkansas Tech women’s basketball history.
“Jayana’s going to put a lot more points on the board and get a lot of assists this year because we have a lot of scorers on the team,” said Wilbers, who earned his 299th win as the Golden Suns’ head coach on Saturday.
Mark Downey has begun the process of re-establishing the standard of excellence that made Arkansas Tech one of the top NCAA Division II men’s basketball programs in the nation from 2009-17.
It was Downey who developed that culture as the Wonder Boys’ head coach from 2006-10. As a result, Arkansas Tech made two NCAA Tournament appearances, won two Gulf South Conference Tournament titles, earned a GSC West Division regular season title and achieved a No. 1 national ranking over the span of his final two seasons in Russellville.
That trend continued following his departure. The Wonder Boys went on to win five consecutive regular season conference titles (2010-14). They extended the NCAA Tournament streak to seven years in a row (2009-15) and made it back to the madness of March in 2017.
Now, after Arkansas Tech missed the conference tournament in back-to-back years, Downey is back as head coach and re-assembling the pieces. A win on Thursday in the Great American Conference opener at the University of Arkansas-Monticello would give the Wonder Boys their first 3-0 start since 2016-17.
“Our guys know what we want to be and I think we have pretty good talent,” said Downey. “Our staff has done a good job of letting the guys know what we want. It’s coming. Consistency over 40 minutes is what you’re always striving for, and I don’t think we’re there yet.”
Game times are set for 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Steelman Field House in Monticello. No fans are permitted at GAC events through at least Jan. 16 due to return to play protocols.
Radio station KCJC 102.3 FM and www.arkansastechsports.com will provide live coverage Thursday and again when the Golden Suns and Wonder Boys play at Tucker Coliseum on Saturday (2 and 4 p.m.) and Monday (5:30 and 7:30 p.m.). Talk to you on the radio.
Tech Tidbits is a column written by Sam Strasner, ATU director of university relations and radio play-by-play voice for ATU football and basketball.