- Michelle Smith, Contributor, espnW.com
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Kelsey Bone looks around and there's something different in every direction.
New conference. New coaches on the bench. New athletic director. New teammates. A whole lot of new.
"It is a lot of change," Bone, Texas A&M's center said. "But all change isn't bad, so we are just embracing it. It just takes time to get used to everything."
It might take a little longer even to get used to the sight of the Aggies' 0-3 start, which came after Sunday's home-loss against Connecticut and three straight games against top-10 teams. Ranked No. 16 going into the game, the Aggies fell out of the national rankings this week, but it's bound to get easier. There are no more currently ranked teams on A&M's nonconference schedule and the Aggies have a month to settle in before making their debut in the SEC.
Bone welcomed the challenge her team faced early in this season.
"It's the biggest thing I've been looking forward to," Bone said. "Growing up since I was 10 years old, watching Tennessee and Connecticut, and now I wake up in the morning and we are playing that kind of schedule. It's what I wanted."
Last season, Bone's first on the court with the Aggies after transferring from South Carolina, was a productive one for the 6-foot-4 Houston native. She averaged 11.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and was named the Big 12's newcomer of the year.
This year, she's the veteran, and the newcomer tag is reserved for the seven freshmen on the Aggies' roster -- and even some of the returners who have played only sparingly.
"We have nine letterwinners, but they don't have a lot of on-court experience," Bone said. "A lot of our upperclassmen have waited their turn and learned from our great players."
In fact, Texas A&M has six players on the roster who were on the team two years ago when the Aggies won the program's first NCAA Title. But none of them played much for that team, which was defined by the star power of Danielle Adams, Sydney Colson, Sydney Carter and Tyra White.
Gary Blair is rebuilding his program behind Bone, moving into the first season of SEC play with many players who will not know that anything is different at all because they've never been here before.
He took them through the gantlet already this month, opening with games against Louisville, Penn State and Connecticut. The level of competition -- and an early penchant for too many turnovers -- has left the Aggies winless out of the gate, but with plenty of valuable experience.
A&M was picked to finish fifth in the SEC. But Bone will come in and automatically be one of the conference's top players.
Bone got off to a good start with double-doubles against Louisville and Penn State, but had a tough game against Connecticut, finishing with an underwhelming eight points, three rebounds and no blocks.
"Kelsey is learning what it takes," Blair said. "When she came out of high school, she was the No. 2-ranked recruit in the country next to Brittney Griner. I think she is now learning the expectations are there. She has to bring it every night and play a little bit smarter."
Blair said his young team still has to learn to get the ball to her consistently. "She has to call for the pass more as a post player," he said. "She has to go get some of those offensive boards."
Bone feels "99.99 percent responsible" for the direction of her team but has faith it will come together.
"We have a core of people who were in there practicing every day against that national championship team. We still know what our program is about," Bone said. "The basics are still there We are going to be fine. We knew these three games were going to be very tough for us, but in the end, they are going to teach us so much."
14dBonnie D. Ford