Former Cougar Jaynes thriving in second season at Butler

Different year. Different world.

Sydney Jaynes’ second season on the Butler University women’s basketball team is what she envisioned coming out of Trinity Lutheran High School.

She is almost ready to call it a second freshman year, a redo or at least a reboot of her original plan. For Jaynes, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, Butler II is a refreshing restart.

“Oh yes, oh my gosh, it feels like I just started, like college just started,” Jaynes said.

That’s how divergent her two experiences have been.

“We have so many different pieces,” she said.

The Bulldogs are 5-7 after a 67-50 loss to Indiana on Wednesday afternoon at Assembly Hall, battling the No. 4 nationally ranked Hoosiers but never really threatening an upset. However, that is a massive improvement over last year when Butler was the bottom feeder in the Big East with a 1-27 record.

The solo victory campaign was almost surreal to Jaynes, a nightmare that lasted months.

“We kind of assumed we would get one more win,” said Jaynes, now 20, of that elusive next victory. There was no one more win over a long winter.

Butler made changes, including hiring a new coach, Austin Parkinson, who led IUPUI to its first NCAA appearance in 2022 and won 20 games in a season eight times. Jaynes, who was Trinity’s all-time leading scorer when she finished playing at the Seymour school, was a coveted player because she had height and could rebound, pass and shoot.

Trinity coach Mike Lang called Jaynes’ number frequently and let her judgment mostly rule on the court. Jaynes said she has that joie de vivre back in her game.

“Mike Lang gave me all the freedom to do anything,” Jaynes said. “I’ve been working on those skills. These coaches have faith in me. I’m having loads of fun.”

Although Butler lost the mid-December game to Marquette, Jaynes turned in a sterling performance that was reminiscent of her finest high school games when she hit for 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Jaynes said looking at that contest, she just played freer.

“We had a flow going,” she said. “The offense was just flowing.”

Going into the Dec. 21 game at Indiana, attended by her parents, Doug and Mary, Lang and current Trinity Lutheran players, creating Sydney cheering sections, Jaynes was averaging 10.7 points and 5 rebounds a game.

Butler’s roster is an homage to short people, and Jaynes stands out in the middle. She often sets up in the low post but can hit the 3-pointer. She has been focused on improving her mid-range shot.

Over several minutes of the Indiana game, Jaynes was one-on-one with IU star Mackenzie Holmes. More often, teams seek to double-team Holmes. The players are about the same height and banged one another down low as the refs let them play without gratuitous whistles.

“I think she did a nice job,” said Donna Sullivan, Jaynes’ assistant coach in high school and a former IU player who was present.

Covering Holmes, on her way to likely All-American mention, was a sturdy test for Jaynes and neither player yielded in the physical confrontation. Holmes, with 21 points, had the bigger game, to Jaynes’ 11 points, but it was an entertaining mini-war within the wider context of the game.

IU coach Teri Moren said it was “a challenge” Holmes might run into periodically, but she still expects future foes to stick with doubling, or even triple-teaming, her in the low post.

Jaynes fought for position and sought to shoot in close, never an easy opportunity versus Holmes. It all made for intriguing sequences of insider basketball.

Lang said the coaching switch at Butler has been good for Jaynes, who averaged 5.1 points and 2.8 rebounds as a freshman. Basically, Jaynes is doubling her numbers this year.

“She is using the skills she did in high school,” Lang said. “The difference is having a coaching staff that believes in her.”

Jaynes said she is a much better player now based on the practice repetitions she has put in and that she can continue to grow and expand her talents.

“I feel like with the amount of work I am doing, my ceiling is high,” Jaynes said.

It already seems as if Sydney Jaynes can touch the ceiling, but now, she wants to touch the sky.