The Texas A&M women’s basketball program on Monday night at the Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center celebrated a record-setting season that many a year ago had doubts would even take place.
A&M did more than just play. The Aggies went 25-3, reaching the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament and winning their first Southeastern Conference regular-season title. A&M climbed to a program-record second during the season in the Associated Press’ Top 25 and ended at No. 4 in the final regular-season poll, another best. And its .893 winning percentage was the program’s highest.
The Aggies won at least 20 games for a 16th straight time. Some wondered if A&M would play that many games on the heels of COVID-19 that canceled the 2020 NCAA tournament. The Ivy League canceled its entire 2020-21 season. Duke, SMU, Vanderbilt and Virginia each canceled their seasons after a few games and 75 other Division I schools played less than 20 games.
“This season, I am so proud of this basketball team, so proud that we stared adversity in the face and found a way to overcome,” A&M coach Gary Blair said. “We did it, but you’ve got no idea how we did it.”
This was arguably Blair’s deepest and most talented team. The five starters averaged scoring between 10.5 and 12.7 points per game. It had four other players average at least eight minutes per game.
“This team shared so well,” said Blair, adding that’s hard in today’s society. “Can you share in today’s world? And our team did.”
A&M had a nation-best three players drafted by the WNBA — shooting guard Aaliyah Wilson in the first round by Indiana, power forward N’dea Jones in the second round by Seattle and center Ciera Johnson in the third round by Phoenix. All the reserves who helped make them better players along with playing valuable minutes themselves shared in the team’s Hustle Award.
This team’s ability to share and play together will allow it to be remembered as much as the 2010-11 squad that won the national championship, Blair said.
“Winners know the score, not just the game score,” Blair said. “They know they played well or they played poorly, because they look at themselves first. They also look at the game plan and ask, ‘What is my role tonight for my team and my coach?’”
The team theme included the fans who shared the Noel Devin Fan Award.
NOTES — Jones won the team’s Most Valuable Player Award and Johnson earned the Miss Aggie Award. Other award winners were: Wilson, Miss Defense; Kayla Wells, Miss Offense; Destiny Pitts, Sixth Woman; Sahara Jones, Newcomer of the Year; Jordan Nixon, Most Improved; and McKinzie Green, Academic. … A&M was seeded second for the NCAA tournament and some thought it should have been a No. 1 seed. But it didn’t live up to its No. 2 seed, eking out victories over 15th-seeded Troy 84-80 and seventh-seeded Iowa State 84-82 in overtime before falling to third-seeded Arizona 74-59. “Did we peak too early?” said Blair, referring to a 23-1 start that included a 13-1 SEC record. “We played our butts off all year.” Blair said he didn’t think the team peaked too early, rattling off many of the marque victories. … Blair’s contract is set to expire, but he told the crowd next season will be his 50th in coaching and he’s glad he’ll be doing at A&M. Blair was given a three-year extension on April 28, 2017, through the 2020-21 season. … Blair had the crowd offer a toast to former assistant Bob Starkey who was hired this week at Auburn after nine seasons with A&M. … Johnson, Jones and Wilson couldn’t attend because of WNBA obligations, but had taped videos for the crowd. … Reserve post Anna Dreimane was the lone senior to speak. She received her undergraduate degree in psychology human research development last May and in two weeks she’ll get her masters in science and business from the Mays Business School. ... A&M will start offseason drills Tuesday.