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Northwestern women’s basketball 2021-22 player reviews: role players and reserves

Joe McKeown’s external rotation showed a lot of promise.

@NUWBBall on Twitter

The end of Northwestern women’s basketball’s season came earlier than most had hoped, but there remains plenty of individual and team performances to look back on from the 2021-22 season. With March officially over and the bulk of this year’s college basketball action behind us, it’s time we take a look at the impacts each member of Joe McKeown’s squad made during their 17-12 run. To begin, we reminisce on NU’s role players and reserves, all of whom played a part in successfully navigating the twists and turns of this past year:

Role Players

Paige Mott

Most well-known for her infectious energy and persistent cheers from the bench, Mott appeared in 28 of Northwestern’s 29 games this season. A center, Mott generally earned her minutes as a replacement for Courtney Shaw, oftentimes competing with first-year Caileigh Walsh for time on the court.

Mott played an average of 14.4 minutes per game, during which she found a way to notch nine steals and 13 blocks on the season along with 3.4 points per game. Her efficiency overall was slightly lower this year than last, but the circumstances were also different, with Shaw available for far more games in 2021-22 than during her injury-riddled junior campaign. Mott continued to struggle with fouls, as she appeared for less than 20 minutes in six of the seven games where she committed three or more fouls.

Now that Shaw is returning for her fifth and final season, Mott must find a way to use her body and evident skill in a way that will draw as few whistles as possible if she wants to see her playing time seriously increase. Nonetheless, it’s clear Mott’s presence, no matter where she might be during a game, is a positive thing for the program.

Kaylah Rainey

Though few fans rejoiced at seeing Veronica Burton take any breaks whatsoever, when Rainey came off the bench, you knew it was going to be a fun time. The guard has handles, and she sure knows how to fight her way to the basket. Just ask her Feb. 13th halftime buzzer-beating, driving layup against Rutgers if you’re in doubt.

The junior has consistently grown as a player over her three years in the program so far, and her improvement was shown through 26 appearances this season. Rainey tallied 7.3 minutes per game with two points per game to show for her efforts. Most of her play was concentrated in the heat of the non-conference schedule, but Rainey proved her worth, scoring eight points in 11 minutes against Milwaukee and then seven points in seven minutes Ohio State at the start of conference play.

Rainey still has two years of eligibility under her belt to work her way into the starting rotation. With Sydney Wood and Laya Hartman in need of a consistent third option, she might just fit the bill.

Reserves

Jasmine McWilliams

Of all the role players and reserves, McWilliams actually started the most games this season (three). That being said, she doesn’t have much numbers-wise to show for it, and we have yet to truly experience the scope of the sophomore’s play.

Having appeared in just one conference matchup after a consistent non-conference showing, McWilliams only notched 5.6 minutes per game for fewer than one point each contest. Nevertheless, it’s clear McKeown evidently sees her potential, we just have yet to witness its entirety ourselves.

Anna Morris

A preseason ankle injury knocked Morris out of the running until late November, but the sophomore was unable to match her performance from the year prior. Whereas Morris would appear consistently for around 10.5 minutes per game last season, her time this year was cut in half, as were her average point totals.

The Wildcats are in need of a few shooters given the impending absences of Veronica Burton and Lauryn Satterwhite, and, despite the fact that she plays a different position, Morris could play a part in filling that gap. With much needed rest and recovery as well as offseason training, one would hope that she hits her stride and not only matches her first-year performance, but exceeds it in her junior year.

Hailey Weaver

A highly touted recruit and the No. 35 player in her class by ESPN coming into the 2021-22 season, Weaver did not play nearly as much as many would have thought. The Ohio native only appeared in six contests and didn’t dress for the first few games of the season, but she did manage to score five points in eight minutes against Delaware and found ways to score in four of her five other short opportunities. With at least three more years remaining of eligibility, the hope is that we will see more of Weaver and uncover what the hype was all about in the near future.

Mercy Ademusayo

The tallest member of this NU team at 6-foot-3, Ademusayo appeared in 15 contests for the Wildcats and proved she can use her size to her advantage by offering some of the most exciting blocks by any team member all season. Seriously, she had three monster blocks in three minutes in only her second collegiate appearance against UCSB, so that has to count for something. Ademusayo would occasionally check in at center during garbage time, but she always found a way to re-energize those around her with her aggressiveness in the paint. Though she does have more to learn, the first-year is sure to be a player to watch down the road.

Jess Sancataldo

After five years with the Wildcats, Sancataldo is finally moving on to bigger and better things — but not before she made a positive impact on every member of the program. The grad student spent the 2020-21 campaign at home in Australia due to COVID travel restrictions, but she remained involved in team activities as much as she could all while furthering the sport of basketball in her home country. Upon her return, Sancataldo always wore a smile, whether she was on the bench or sinking threes on Senior Night. Our favorite Aussie, Sancataldo was been a force for good both on-and-off-the-court during her time at Northwestern.