These past few seasons for Texas Southern junior guard Andriana Avent have been nothing like she envisioned when she began this journey from Sacramento, Calif.
Her first college stop at the University of New Mexico didn’t work out. She landed at TSU prior to the 2021-22 academic year and she found refuge and a coach in Cynthia Cooper-Dykes, who had the patience and knowledge to teach her the game.
But Cooper-Dykes abruptly retired at the end of last season and soon details of her menacing behavior toward some of her players emerged. So now, Avent is adjusting to new Lady Tigers’ coach Vernette Skeete while having a lot of individual success, but the team is struggling with just one win all season.
“It’s been ups and downs, but I can say that I’m more than blessed more than anything,” Avent said. “No matter what, I feel like I can’t give up.”
Despite the Lady Tigers’ 1-22 record coming out of last weekend, the 5-foot-11 Avent is having an impressive season. She currently ranks second in the SWAC in scoring (16.7 points) and second in 3-pointers made per game (2.3).
In her second season at TSU, she has clearly established herself as one of the elite players in the SWAC. Avent was named SWAC Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks during a stretch in January.
Skeete has been impressed with Avent, but she still knows there is much more to unlock in her game.
“She has been growing along with all of the other players on the team,” Skeete said. “She has been exploring, trying to find a way and grow her game, work on some things we’ve seen that need improvement so that we can get her to the next level.”
The Defender sat down with Avent to discuss her journey, her motivation, and hopes for her team.
DEFENDER: How is the season going for you?
AVENT: It’s been a challenge, but more so for the good because we do have a young team, just building a new program. I feel like it has been a good ride, but it’s been hard, too. Just like the work is a little different. The team chemistry, just getting to know new individuals being that half the team is fairly new. Besides that, everything else has been pretty good.
DEFENDER: How have you continued to be you within the context of all that has transpired this past year?
AVENT: It’s more so just knowing my role as being the captain of the team. I’m learning how to be more open, showing that I am more committed, having my teammates’ backs as we go through what we go through.
DEFENDER: How has reality matched with what your vision was when you transferred to TSU from New Mexico?
AVENT: At times, it is a lot different than what was expected. We do have a new coaching staff, so it’s like going through building trust all over again; having the same confidence as you did before being that the system isn’t the same. It’s a whole different style of play.
DEFENDER: What was it like for you last year dealing with the coach who recruited you suddenly retiring and then the abuse allegations that followed?
AVENT: It was a little complicated being that I did build a relationship with the coach. I felt like she did know what she was doing as far as X’s and O’s. The outside stuff, I really didn’t know too much about because I was just into basketball. I wasn’t into nothing else.
DEFENDER: What was last season like for you?
AVENT: It helped me gain my confidence. I finally had a coach who believed in me and actually took the time to show me where I went wrong and how to critique my skills into getting better. Also, she let me play and wasn’t so uptight with everything. I was able to make mistakes and then learn from them throughout the process.
DEFENDER: What has it been like adjusting to coach Skeete and her staff?
AVENT: I’m normally just a quiet person, so it takes me a while to open up and to gain trust in other people. But I feel like I do have trust in her, her process and where she is going as far as the program. I just feel like I haven’t come out of my shell all the way because at times I am a little nervous to make mistakes because I’m not too sure how her coaching is all the way. But that’s the only thing.
DEFENDER: You guys have been so close in a lot of these games, but what is it going to take for this team to get over the hump and turn some of those close games into wins?
AVENT: We have to pay attention to one another’s strengths and weaknesses on the floor. We have to know where one another wants the ball, how we want to guard the screen or the certain passes we need to get the shot off. I also feel like we just have to build our chemistry more outside of basketball.
DEFENDER: How good can this team eventually be?
“We all have great talent that all haven’t been able to show being that we are still getting comfortable with each other. We do have a lot in store as we grow.”