During a sit-down interview with R1S1 Sports this summer, Kansas center Taiyanna Jackson shared some pretty lofty goals for the 2023-24 season.
One of them was to be picked to the all-Big 12 first team again.
It may be still the preseason, but Jackson took a positive step in that direction on Wednesday, earning a preseason first-team all-Big 12 spot as one of four unanimous selections on the 11-player team.
The senior from East Chicago, Indiana who has set the KU single-season blocks record in back-to-back years also wants to break that record again, earn Big 12 defensive player of the year honors and lead the Jayhawks to a Big 12 title and back to the NCAA Tournament.
She knows she can’t do any of that alone, though, and she’s thrilled with the talent around her, made up of other all-Big 12 players, a few talented newcomers and some of her closest friends.
“I won’t be able to do any of it without my teammates,” Jackson told R1S1 this summer. “Because they help put me in those positions and my coaches push me and help me remember how much work goes into it.”
Joining Jackson on the preseason all-Big 12 list as voted on by the league’s coaches was fellow-first-team honoree, Zakiyah Franklin and honorable mention selection Holly Kersgieter.
All three players landed in the same spots on the postseason teams at the end of the 2022-23 season, and all three came back to Kansas for one final season to make a run at reaching new heights with the program.
Their goals entering this season are bigger than ever, and they believe they have the type of team that can reach them.
Winning a Big 12 title is at the top of their list, and this trio, along with the rest of the team, understands clearly that if KU’s top players deliver the types of seasons they’re capable of delivering there will be room for both individual accolades and team accomplishments worth celebrating when next March rolls around.
“We’re just focused on making sure we don’t go backwards,” Kersgieter told R1S1 Sports this summer. “There’s just absolutely no need to revert. We’ve grown, we are mature, we have habits that keep us going forward. And, with the new people, we just bring them along.”
One such newcomer is highly touted freshman S’mya Nichols, who did not show up on any of the preseason all-Big 12 honors.
Baylor’s Jada Walker, an all-SEC pick as a freshman at Kentucky last season, was named the preseason newcomer of the year and Texas forward Madison Booker, a McDonald’s All-American ranked No. 12 in her recruiting class, was named the preseason freshman of the year.
Nichols, who is on the short list of highest-rated prospects ever to sign with Kansas women’s basketball — ranked No. 21 in the 2023 class per ESPN.com — figures to be in the conversation for both of those honors as the season unfolds. So, too, might Spanish freshman Laia Conesa, who brings all kinds of international experience to the Kansas bench.
The KU women will unofficially kick off the 2023-24 season Friday night at Late Night in the Phog, where the KU men’s team and musical guest Flo Rida will headline the 39th annual season tipoff event.
Brandon Schneider’s team will open the regular season at home against Northwestern State on Nov. 8.
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