Women's basketball: First look

 

As you can tell by Loretta8’s fine series of Big Ten men’s basketball previews, hoops season is upon us. While the men’s team will see its first action on Monday, the women’s team will have the honor of playing first on our purple-crayon-colored stained court on Sunday, with an exhibition against D-II Lewis University.

While there are plenty of sources of info and commentary on our men’s team, including the always solid work done here by Loretta8 and Rodger, it’s a bit harder to find any coverage of our women’s team, outside the Daily Northwestern. So I’m here to help fill some of that void, as much as I can. (Pooley over at Welsh-Ryan Ramblings is also ramping up some women’s bball coverage, which is great to see.)

At any rate, this should be a pretty exciting season for NU women’s basketball, which is coming off two straight WNIT berths, and I’m not just saying that to entice you to read on. While we lose one of the best players in NU history in All-American Amy Jaeschke, along with four-year starting PG Beth Marshall, we’ve got five hyped newcomers — three highly touted freshmen, including a McDonald’s high school All-American, and two solid transfers — all of whom could make immediate impacts, as we search for our first NCAA tournament berth since 1997.

NU, which finished 19-14 last year, 6-10 in the Big Ten, with a second-round exit in the WNIT, will have some really good depth that it hasn’t seen for years. And there should be plenty of scoring weapons, unlike last year, when it seemed like the Wildcats’ only consistent performers were Jaeschke and Kendall Hackney, who returns.

Sunday’s exhibition against Lewis isn’t televised, and since I’m in DC, I won’t be going. But if you are, feel free to add your eye-witness accounts below in the comments section, or put up a FanPost!  And even if you aren’t going, comments are always welcome.

In the meantime, read on for position-by-position breakdown of our team.

Ok, obvious caveat here that I have not observed any practices, nor has there been any coverage I can find of the team so far, so keep in context that I’m flying a bit blind on this.

The center position obviously will be a huge question mark, with the loss of Jaeschke, who was the first ever NU player to be drafted by the WNBA and is now playing professionally in Russia. Jaeschke was second in the Big Ten in scoring at 21.4 points per game, and fourth in rebounding at 9.0 rpg, so her presence will be missed.

Sophomore Anna Cole, a transfer from Kentucky, will probably inherit the starting position. Cole, who is 6’7", saw limited playing time her freshman year at Kentucky, due to two stress fractures in her foot, getting into just 9 games, averaging 1.0 points per game and 1.7 rebounds per game.

Junior Danielle Diamant could also be vying for the starting center position. The granddaughter of legendary UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian, Diamant had a solid freshman year, averaging 5.7 ppg and 4.1 rpg off the bench, but then she missed the first half of her sophomore season for personal reasons (reportedly grades). After returning in December, Diamant looked rather out of sync, and her numbers across the board dropped quite a bit.  Freshman Alex Cohen, who is 6’5", could be a factor, as well, though she’s listed as a forward. Cohen is a four-star recruit who was ranked the 60th best prospect by Hoopgurlz.com.

At forward, junior Kendall Hackney, an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection, was the team’s second-leading scorer last year, putting up 11.5 ppg and adding 5.1 rpg. She’s a very versatile player, able to shoot from outside, drive into the lane, or post up, as needed. You might also see her singing the national anthem before games every now and then. I’m guessing she’ll be the team’s go-to scorer this year.

Gritty senior Brittany Orban, who was second on the team in rebounds last year with 5.8 per game, is the other returning starter. Pushing for time will be junior Kate Popovic, a transfer from Pitt, where she was a part-time starter her first two years. Jaeschke raved about Popovic in an interview with me last April, so look for her to make an impact.

Guard is probably the Wildcats’ deepest position, despite losing both starters Beth Marshall and Meisha Reed to graduation. We could see a sister-sister combo in the starting lineup, with freshman Morgan Jones and junior Tailor Jones. Morgan is the first McDonald’s high school All-American to join the Wildcats since Jaeschke, and all eyes will be on her to see how she does. She may also spend some time at forward. Tailor, who oozes athleticism, was the backup PG last year, and while she averaged 3.6 assists per game coming off the bench, good for second on the team, she also led the team in turnovers, with 3.5 per game.

Other veterans returning include senior team captain Allison Mocchi, who was a real spark off the bench, sophomore Meghan McKeown, daughter of head coach Joe McKeown, and junior Inesha Hale. Sophomore LaTerria Taylor also returns after missing all of last year with injury, and freshman Karly Roser, who captained the Canadian U17 national team, will add depth at point guard.

We’ll look more into the schedule and take a look around the conference next week. In the meantime, as I said in the intro, if you attend Sunday’s exhibition, I’d be curious to get your thoughts on how the team looked.

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