By Mark F. Gray
At the dawn of this new decade, the nation’s only undefeated HBCU basketball program plays in Prince George’s County. Entering the heavyweight portion of the schedule, Bowie State’s women’s basketball won its first 13 games and are pushing Virginia Union to be the team to beat when the CIAA Tournament plays its final season in Charlotte, NC at the end of February.
With a 13-0 streak to open the year, BSU is off to the best start in school history since 1997 when the team began 7-0. In two recent home games the Bulldogs displayed the versatility that will make them a challenge for their conference rivals this year. In a 96-65 win over Bloomfield, they beat an overmatched team the way a superior would. However, two days later they nearly squandered a 20-point halftime lead against Winston Salem State, but held on for a 54-48 victory to remain unblemished.
Bowie State’s depth and coaching have been the key in re-establishing their program as one of the CIAA contenders. Head coach Shadae Swan has recruited the DMV as well as any small college leader in the area and has put together as talented a Division II roster as there is in the country. This edition of the Bulldogs is not defined by one player, it truly is the sum of its parts.
Swan has used her frequent driving miles to work both sides of the Baltimore Washington Parkway to build a team that is poised to make a run at Virginia Union and adept at finding players who may help them rip the championship trophy from them. The DMV is arguably the most fertile recruiting ground for college and she has proven to have just enough size to match up with other frontcourts in the CIAA should they need extra fouls. The Bulldogs also appear to have a championship caliber backcourt. On the wings their length and athleticism give them a chance to become the CIAA’s best defensive team when their legs get heavy and the jumpers struggle to fall during the tournament.
The extension of Swan on the floor this season is senior Kyaja Williams. Williams, who is from Baltimore and played at Western High, is their unquestioned leader. Despite their balance without Williams on the floor, they are a totally different team when she is on the bench. Already a four-time CIAA Player of the Week this season, Williams scored 16 points in consecutive games last weekend against Bloomfield and Winston Salem State. However, her impact was different in each game.
She helped the Bulldogs put the game out of reach in its early stages. They opened the game with a 24-0 run and the defensive catalyst was Williams, who also added 16 rebounds and did a great job playing the passing lanes to trigger their fast break, allowing Dynashia Christian to finish with a career-high 23 points. In contrast, Winston Salem made their run to erase the Bulldogs’ 20-point halftime deficit after she went to the bench with her fourth personal foul.