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Baylor's DiJonai Carrington making her mark as the most dangerous substitute in the tournament

Colby Gordon
American-Statesman Correspondent
Baylor guard DiJonai Carrington shoots during the Bears' 90-48 win over Virginia Tech in the second round of the women's NCAA Tournament at the Greehey Arena in San Antonio on Tuesday. Carrington had 21 points and eight rebounds in the victory.

SAN ANTONIO — DiJonai Carrington is enjoying every second of her time at Baylor.

A graduate transfer from Stanford, Carrington has been with the program for only 10 months, but after an injury wiped out most of her senior year with the Cardinal, Baylor’s run to the Sweet 16 following Tuesday’s 90-48 blowout of Virginia Tech in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Bill Greehey Arena is something she’s relishing.

“I just learned from that injury that you never know when your playing career could be cut short,” Carrington said. “I try and play every game like it’s my last. After a season-ending injury I never take any moment on the court for granted and just try and play hard every possession. I’ve loved coming here to Baylor and it’s been the perfect decision for me. I’m really grateful the coaching staff trusted me to come be a part of this team.”

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Carrington isn’t just a bystander, either. She scored 21 points and had eight rebounds to lead the Bears on Tuesday and was the Big 12’s Sixth Player of the Year during the regular season. An all-Pac 12 selection two years ago who helped Stanford to a regional final, she comes off the bench for Baylor. Though she plays starter’s minutes and averages more than 13 points a game, Carrington enters Saturday’s game against Michigan in the Sweet 16 as arguably the most dangerous substitute in the country.

“She brings a spark to our team,” said Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, who has now guided the Bears to at least the third round for the 12th straight year. “She’s a phenomenal player who has experience and skill. She can shoot the three, she can take you off the dribble and she can post you up. But the thing that impresses me the most is how she’s quickly picked up our defensive concepts. To do that in such a short period of time, it fits her skill level.”

Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey talks with Baylor guard DiJonai Carrington during the Bears' 90-48 win over Virginia Tech in the second round of the women's NCAA Tournament at the Greehey Arena in San Antonio on Tuesday. “She brings a spark to our team,” Mulkey said.

The daughter of a father who played eight years in the NFL and a mother who ran track at Northern Arizona, Carrington has had nothing but success on the basketball court. She was a five-star recruit and named a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school in her native San Diego. While at Stanford she played key roles on teams that advanced to the Final Four, Sweet 16 and Elite 8.

Following last year’s injury and eventual transfer, Carrington said one thing that’s benefited her in her career is having learned to not force things and let the game come to her.

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“I think that’s when I’m at my best is when I’m patient and do that,” she said. “And like (Tuesday), it’s always nice to see a couple shots fall, as that makes the basket seem so big. Being able to score in a multitude of ways and not being one-dimensional has really helped expand my game.”

With no tournament a year ago, Baylor is still technically the defending champion, having won it in 2019. And while Carrington would love to help the Bears to another title, she’s happy simply living in the moment right now.

“I personally take it one day at a time,” she said. “From what I’ve seen in the tournament during my career, you can’t take anything for granted. Any team can beat any other team on any given night — you may be a favorite, but that doesn’t mean anything.”