If you never realized Wichita State guard Jamillah Bonner has a kid, it’s probably because she never let it affect her playing time.
Bonner, a Wichita Southeast graduate, gave birth to a daughter in August 2011, just as she was getting started at Butler Community College. She had a Caesarean section - major abdominal surgery.
Doctors told Bonner to take a minimum of six weeks off. She took four. She was back on the court in time for the Grizzlies’ season opener that October, and has been busting her tail on the court every since.
She survived sleepless nights with her newborn, and insisted on breast feeding. Those are the times Bonner admits she wasn't sure if she could handle the double workload of being a mother and a student-athlete.
“It crossed my mind,” she said. “But I know the Lord’s with me, and He’s going to help see me through. The hardest thing is when I don’t see her – sometimes these road trips take me away for almost a week. It’s been a struggle at times. But my teammates and my coaches encourage me and keep me strong. I have an amazing support system with my family and friends here at home. And I have my faith.”
Her daughter, Amiyah, is now an attention-demanding 2-year-old who usually occupies Bonner's every minute at home.
As for Bonner, she's the second-leading scorer for a WSU team that has won 19 straight games and is holding firm as the best team in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Bonner never stops moving. No. 5 is everywhere. At 5-foot-8, she’s a versatile talent whose energy is unmatched.
“She plays so hard,” WSU coach Jody Adams said. “She’s such a coachable kid. Her athleticism and God-given talent make up for a lot of mistakes.”
In Friday night’s game against Bradley, Adams watched Bonner miss her first eight shots. She ended the night with 11 points, but took 20 shots to get them.
Time management is an issue, like when Bonner nearly let the shot clock expire because she wasn’t paying attention to it.
“But her intangibles definitely make up for it,” Adams said. “It’s hard to take her out of a game because what she does defensively for you, what she does on the boards for you, and those type of things. It’s her hustle. She’s got that pit bull in her.”
Bonner was an all-conference player in both her seasons at Butler. Adams credits Grizzlies coach Mike Helmer for at least part of that.
“She has grown so much in our program because of her discipline,” Adams said. “Mike Helmer did a phenomenal job with her at Butler. At this level, more people are going to match her speed and make her play more of a half-court offense. And she’s become better at doing that. … As long as she stays coachable, and she’ll understand that, she’ll get back in the groove of things.”
The shooting slump isn’t a big concern for Bonner, either.
“I mean, it kind of bothers me,” she said. “But I let my defense come, I hustle read hard, get steals, get rebounds and just find ways to contribute something to my team if my shots aren’t falling.
“Things are going great. I have a great team and a great coaching staff. We’re winning and I’m playing a lot of minutes. We’re all just working hard, trying to win a championship.”