When West Virginia center Asya Bussie suffered a season-ending ACL injury last season, the Mountaineers lost more than their best player on both sides of the ball. They lost one of their leaders.
When Bussie began rehab on her knee in Miami, Fla., her team began the regular season on Nov. 9, against UNC Wilmington.
In the 76-47 win, junior Florida transfer Christal Caldwell arrived on the WVU scene. In her first game since sitting out a year due to Division 1 transfer rules, Caldwell dropped a game-high 21 points.
The leadership picture started to become clearer as the season progressed. As the Mountaineers continued to play more games, Caldwell continued to improve and lead WVU even more.
In a matchup against Virginia on Dec. 2, 2012, Caldwell recorded 17-of-19 points in the second half to propel a come-from-behind victory for her team.
Caldwell finished the 2012-13 season as the Mountaineers leading scorer (13.1 ppg) and tallied the most steals on the team (51). She was also named to the All-Big 12 team for her efforts.
Her play not only gained the respect of the Big 12 Conference, but her teammates in the locker room started to take notice of Caldwell’s leadership.
After the Mountaineers lost to Delaware in the first round of the NCAA Championships last season, center Anya Dunning remarked on Caldwell’s leadership.
“(They) have five seniors who are all great players and great people. They have a great opportunity with great leadership and I think they will be great next year,” Dunning said about the 2013-14 team.
The team that Dunning predicted to be great is anticipated to finish No. 3 in the Big 12 this season. The team this season will have the combined leadership of both Bussie and Caldwell to help lead the way.
Despite dropping the season opener to Ohio State in early November, Caldwell was a perfect 4-4 from the foul line and the leading scorer for the Mountaineers with 17 points.
Even after the game Caldwell stood side by side with Bussie at a press conference and discussed what her team needs to improve.
“Either you have to score from the foul line or with jump shots. I feel like we didn’t do any of that,” Caldwell said after the loss to the Buckeyes. “We got open looks, we just weren’t making the shots.”
After the loss the Mountaineers traveled to Honolulu to compete in the Rainbow Wahine Classic on Nov. 16-19. Caldwell and Bussie were both named the all-tournament team, after their efforts helped their team go 3-0 in the tournament.
Caldwell and Bussie will continue to lead the Mountaineers as their senior year continues. They prepare to take on Virginia in the WVU Coliseum Sunday.