Obafemi’s role increasing as Lady Tops prepare to host Grambling

Cole Claybourn

Junior guard Vanessa Obafemi said her mother was in attendance for WKU’s past three home games.

And for the first time, Obafemi’s mother was able to see her daughter play more than 10 minutes in a game.

Since being added to the starting lineup for the Lady Toppers’ (3-6) game against Troy, Obafemi has seen her playing time increase each game.

With the success she’s had during that span, it’s likely she’ll continue to see plenty of minutes, starting with Sunday’s game against Grambling State (4-6).

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said Obafemi was added into the starting lineup for one reason — consistency.

“You know exactly what you’re going to get from Vanessa day in and day out,” Cowles said. “She’s not going to put you in a bad spot, and she’s not going to make any dumb plays. She’s just a smart basketball player.”

Obafemi played 276 minutes in her first two years combined. Through nine games this season, she’s already played more than 200 minutes.

Obafemi admitted that it was difficult for her to sit on the bench and watch for most of her first two seasons but said she didn’t let that discourage her. Instead, she said she saw it as a learning period.

“It humbled me,” she said. “It taught me that nothing would come easy and that I needed to work hard for my playing time.”

In the four games that Obafemi has started so far, she’s averaged 7.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. While her statistics might not do her progress justice, she said the biggest leap she’s made has been in her confidence.

In last Sunday’s game against Alabama A&M, she took 11 shots – all of which were what Cowles called “good looks.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever even thought about taking that many shots in a game, so my confidence is getting a lot higher,” Obafemi said. “I’m just starting to feel a lot more comfortable in my role.”

Senior point guard Amy McNear said she’s not surprised by how well Obafemi has been playing. All three of the Lady Toppers’ wins came in games that Obafemi has started, and McNear added that Obafemi has been the “spark” the team needed to get going.

“From freshman year to sophomore year, you could tell she was hustling in practice and doing the little things that she needed to do,” McNear said. “I’m glad she’s finally getting a chance this year because we really need her. We like her on the floor.”

The Lady Toppers will face a Grambling State team that’s dropped two straight games after winning four straight. Offensively, they’re just about even with the Lady Toppers but are averaging four less points per game.

Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday in Diddle Arena.

Cowles said she’s going to try to attack Grambling State’s offensive inefficiency and cause problems defensively, but she said she knows that won’t come easy.

“We’re still making some mistakes, especially with the rotation on our help-side defense,” she said. “One-on-one defense isn’t there, either. But I think we’re playing hard and it’s just a matter of continuing to play.”