Freshmen Key to U of L Women’s Success

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The Louisville Women’s Basketball team starts their regular season play this week.  The Courier-Journal posted this article talking about the upcoming season and the role the freshmen will play on the team.

To replace what was probably the best group of seniors the University of Louisville women’s basketball program has ever known, coach Jeff Walz added one of the Cardinals’ best freshman classes.

The newcomers will get their chance to shine right away.

Walz, in his eighth year, signed five players, including McDonald’s All American Myisha Hines-Allen and Mariya Moore, in a 2014 class that ranked No. 5 nationally by ProspectsNation.com.

“We recruited these young ladies with the idea that they were going to have come in here as freshmen and contribute and compete, and all of them are doing that,” Walz said. “I’m really excited about that. We couldn’t afford to miss out on this recruiting class.”

Despite the change in identity, expectations remain high for U of L, which is No. 12 in The Associated Press preseason Top 25 and picked to finish third behind Notre Dame and Duke in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Hines-Allen, a 6-foot-2 forward from New Jersey, and Moore, a 5-11 wing from California, are candidates to start, helping fill the huge void left by departed seniors Shoni Schimmel, Antonita Slaughter, Asia Taylor and Tia Gibbs.

“Coach Walz said he doesn’t want any of our freshmen to act like freshmen or play like freshmen,” Hines-Allen said. “So we just have to be aware of who we’re playing and come with confidence every game, every practice. … We have to make a presence.”

Hines-Allen, who plays both forward positions, has impressed Walz with her rebounding and ability to finish around the basket. She can also make an occasional 3-pointer.

“Her physicality and ability to withstand contact and just embrace it is what’s going to give her the advantage and ability to play early,” he said.

Moore is an all-around player – a good shooter and passer who was a member of the U.S. U18 National Team that won the gold medal at the FIBA Americas tournament over the summer.

“I know I’m not going to be able to give them everything that they lost, but I just want to give everything that I can,” Moore said. “As many assists as I can give, defense around the court, anything.”

Hines-Allen and Moore are physically ready to contend with the contact, size and speed of the college game, but the other freshmen will need a bigger adjustment period.

Long Beach, Calif., point guard Arica Carter is a good defender and dribble penetrator who shapes up as the primary backup to Jude Schimmel, but she needs to gain strength to play major minutes.

Sydney Brackemyre of Ohio is a “stretch” power forward with good offensive skill and decision-making, and wing Ariana Freeman of Northern Virginia can carve a nice with rebounding and defense, the coach said.

“I’m confident that all five are going to be a big part of this team,” said Walz, adding that U of L’s five seniors, including Sara Hammond, have done a good job helping bring the freshmen along.

Last year’s seniors were responsible for 55 percent of the Cards’ scoring and 43 percent of their rebounding. They carried U of L to a 33-5 season and Elite Eight appearance a year after finishing as the national runner-up. They helped U of L to 107 victories over four years, and Schimmel, Taylor and Slaughter all were selected in the WNBA draft.

Schimmel left as the school’s No. 2 all-time scorer and leader in 3-pointers, and Walz hopes a collective effort of veterans and freshmen will offset the loss of a singular superstar.

“We’re not trying to just replace Shoni; we’re going to have kids that do different things,” Walz said. “We might not have someone as splashy as Shoni with the ball or being able to hit the stepback threes that she could, but I feel really good about our nucleus and the caliber of players we have right now.”

Hines-Allen was as big a fan as anyone of the Schimmel-led Cards last season. One reason she wanted to come to Louisville was to play the fast, exciting style U of L used to great success.

She thinks the new crop of Cards can keep the good times rolling.

“It was just like a show watching every last one of (last year’s seniors),” Hines-Allen said “… It’s going to different, but we can still wow the crowd.”

Strength

• Seniors Sara Hammond, Bria Smith and Jude Schimmel have played in a ton of big games, including the 2013 Final Four, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any or all of them have a breakout season. Coach Jeff Walz has said he’d like all three to average 4-6 more points per game to offset the losses of last year’s stellar senior class that included All-American Shoni Schimmel. If Hammond – stronger than most smaller forwards but quicker than most bigger centers – has improved her shooting and ball-handling and cuts down on fouling, she could be one of the top players in the country. Walz seems confident that she’s developed the confidence and skills to be the Cardinals’ go-to player.

Weakness

• U of L goes from being one of the country’s most dangerous 3-point shooting teams to one of the most questionable. Departed seniors Shoni Schimmel (118), Antonita Slaughter (54) and Tia Gibbs (49) made 221 of U of L’s 257 3-pointers last year, and the ability of Schimmel – by far the school’s career leader in threes – to pull up from deep in transition or catch and shoot off screens is something this year’s team lacks. There’s not a proven dead-eye shooter on the roster. Jude Schimmel, who made 21 of 65 (32.3 percent) from beyond the arc last year, and Hammond, who made just 10 threes, will have to step up. A team that took 19 threes per game last season may take half that this season.

Keys to success

• U of L needs seniors Sheronne Vails and Shawnta’ Dyer, who both were sidelined with injury last season, to stay healthy and provide interior depth. At 6 feet 4, Vails is U of L’s tallest player and best shot-blocker. Dyer has played in just 26 games the past two years, but she’s one of the Cards’ best post scorers.

• Sophomore Emmonnie Henderson, whose improved conditioning has earned Walz’s praise, will need to be able to play for long stretches. She has the strength and athletic ability to be a major contributor.

Key newcomers

• Freshman forwards Myisha Hines-Allen and Mariya Moore were McDonald’s All Americans who might start from Day 1. Arica Carter will probably be the backup point guard. Ariana Freeman and Sydney Brackemyre figure to see spot duty.

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