Four true freshmen have been added to the roster for the 2015-2016 season. They will be expected to make an impact on the team sooner rather than later. Now to the individual players:
Abby Abel - Abby is a 5'5" walk-on guard out of Carmel, Indiana. She looks to do what walk-ons typically do, such as learning the playbook, both offense and defense, going through all of the practices, and generally working hard as someone to play against the scholarship players in practice. She will most likely get time in mop up situations during the regular seasons. But she also gives us another guard on the depth chart, and you never know when a walk-on can come in and contribute in a live game situation. I have no doubt she is a very good shooter.
Tiara Murphy - I should have gone to see some of her high school games at South Bend Washington which is not very far from where I live in Mishawaka. However I believe our staff has had their sights on her for a long time. Being either #31 or #32 in the Hoopgurlz ratings, she is definitely going to become a major player for our Lady Boilers. At 5'7" she also has a kind of slight frame. But don't let the outward appearance fool you. She is a real baller who sets up plays like a well-coached, athletic, and intelligent point guard should. She will be a real asset in pushing the ball down the court in a hurry, which is definitely needed in this era of women's basketball. My hope is that she become the heir apparent to April Wilson after April graduates. Tiara Murphy is an excellent shooter as well. At the start of the season, I would expect Ashley Morissette to run the point if April Wilson is not in the game. That being said, as the season progresses, Murphy may work her way into the backup slot behind April Wilson as a 1 guard and get some significant playing time. It will also be a good year for Murphy to learn from Wilson as an understudy. While Murphy is not a top 10 recruit, being 31st is pretty damn impressive. I could see her becoming the kind of dynamic guard that Kristi Tolliver was for Maryland. And that would be quite a complement.
Nora Kiesler - Impressive size, as a 6'6" center out of Louisville. While she did not crack the top 100 players in the Hoopgurlz ratings, she did make it into the top 150 players. Coach Versyp mentioned her first off, when asked who was asserting themselves in practice as having the most impact out of the freshman class. Here is a player who has the size to help our team crawl back up in the Big Ten standings and hopefully make it back into the NCAA tournament. We have been needing a dominant center, really, since Camile Cooper in those national championship games. The main question is, can Kiesler adapt to D1 college level from the first game of her freshman year? That is a big if. We may not need to rely on her scoring a lot, but rebounding, blocking out, post defense, passing out to open shooters will be crucial for her. Call me overly optimistic, but I believe by the end of the regular season, Kiesler will be a major contributor. So the question remains, as it always does for incoming freshmen, how soon will you become much more of an asset than a liability? Kiesler, Horrocks, and Moore all need to get in the post and bang away and assert themselves and pull down rebounds. Overcoming the loss of Clemons and Bays due to graduation, we need new players to step up as soon as possible to replace that experience and size. We also need some depth in the post. Clemons and Bays complemented each other nicely but had to play way too many minutes due to lack of depth in the post. So we need for Kiesler to show us a fast learning curve during her freshman year. Foremost, we need for her to rebound and clog up the middle.
Dominique McBryde - Here is a player who I expect to have a high ceiling in terms of potential. At 6'2", out of Bedford North Lawrence high school, she simply dominated games. With the power and agility she possesses, along with her strong frame and height, she should get as many minutes at the power forward position as possible. As the highest recruit to come into the program in a long time, I expect her to make an immediate impact. She isn't just a classic post player, but can also stretch the court out and drain 3 pointers and long 2 pointers. This puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses. Coach V has been talking about running a 1-4 offense, with one post and 4 guards. Which would mean McBryde, Thornton, and Perry would jockey for that position, or possibly we would play one of those at the 4 and another at the 3. Thus the label put on McBryde as a stretch forward. I do recall some rumors that McBryde is a bit nicked up, but I haven't heard anything serious, so she should be ready to go from day one. I know Coach V likes to bring freshmen off of the bench, so perhaps Thornton and Perry may get starting positions here. If that happens, I expect McBryde to put even more effort in to become our starting 4 player. I will be surprised if she is not a starter at some point in the upcoming season. Let's just cross our fingers and hope that she will not have any serious injuries this season.
One who never made it - yes we were hopeful as we signed Lamina Cooper which helped Purdue become ranked as the number 8 recruiting class in the country for 2015. However, Cooper had a serious injury right at the end of her high school career, and never enrolled at Purdue this Fall. That was a big loss. She is regarded as an excellent defender who also has all of the offensive skills. I never really heard what happened to her, and hope the best for her.
Summary-Yes I am a glass half full fan when it comes to this team, but I realize that our women's team needs to dig back out of the deep hole they fell into last season. This year's team is going to be much more competitive than last year's team. One of the primary reasons is this strong incoming freshman class. Nowadays, with extra all star games, AAU ball, and advanced conditioning, players can come to college out of high school more ready to contribute than in many years past. Of course the speed and strength and complex systems both on offense and defense need work, but in spite of these, freshmen can make a major impact. (Can you say Biggie?). In particular we need McBryde and Kiesler to step up from the get-go. Murphy may take a little longer, but still can be expected to become an awesome point guard. I just don't see a scenario where we get next to nothing out of this incoming class and repeat last year's bottom of the well kind of season. Will we win the Big Ten regular season or tournament championship? Not likely. But we will begin the process of turning things around. For an example, look at where our men's bb team has come in a few short years, from worst to possible first in the conference.