Much is made out of the importance of team leadership from the seniors in any college sport. This year's lady boilers have one such player in April Wilson. The other two seniors have both been enigmas in their first three years.
April Wilson - A senior. Our starting point guard. Knows our offense and plays as an extension of what Coach Versyp wants on the court. A ton of playing minutes logged. There is a lot to like about this player. She was able to come along gradually and learn a lot from KK Houser and Courtney Moses. Last year she came into her own. While the positives outweighed the negatives, there is some room for improvement. What sticks out to me is the assist to turnover ratio of 1.6. That is better than we have had in a long, long time. Wilson is simply a steady ball handler. She makes good passes, sets up her teammates, and plays good defense, able to make crafty steals. We absolutely need her to be healthy and to play a lot of minutes to see great improvement as a team from last year. Her bugaboo last year was shooting percentage, both 3-point and 2-point. On the surface this is surprising because since arriving, she had been a very good shooter. I attribute that to a combination of factors. Probably the biggest is that this was the first year where our opponents could put their best defenders on her. The previous two years, opponents had to worry about Houser and Moses. Wilson needs for her teammates to help her out to create more open shots. I fully expect Wilson to have a very good shooting season this year. She has worked hard on that part of her game in particular. Also, she can hustle to drive to the hoop and create shots, being a fast and fearless player. We need at least 15 points per game from Wilson and there is no reason to expect that she won't provide that.
Torrie Thornton - Here is an enigma of a player if there ever was one. She came in with a lot of promise, being able to take it to the hoop from both the left and right sides of the floor. Very athletic and fast. Her biggest problem has been injuries. She has struggled with them for all three years of eligibility. Well this is the do or die senior year, so we can hope that the light comes on, she is totally healthy, and makes significant contributions. Starting with layups. As in quit missing bunnies. We also need her rebounding and ability to push the ball quickly with an outlet pass. And we need her to step up her defense. I really cannot predict what this player will accomplish in her final season. Maybe she will end up kind of like Chantel Poston. Poston came in as a crazy athletic player, but due to a string of injuries, only contributed in a big way playing partial seasons her junior and senior seasons. From all reports Thornton practices well, so it is more than past time to translate that onto the court in live action, to make measurable contributions to the team. I have a glimmer of hope for this player this season, but the proof is on the court.
Hayden Hamby - Here is enigma number 2. She scored over 4400 points as a 6-year starter down in Alabama, and was named Miss Alabama basketball her junior year. Yes, she started on her varsity team in the 7th and 8th grade. We had hopes for a lot of scoring from Hamby. Well it just hasn't happened. And the shooting percentages have been not good at all. I have no doubt that she is a great person, one of the hardest working players on the team, a great teammate with a great attitude, and someone who gives it her all. But once again, play in practice needs to be translated into live action on the court. Hamby has drained some really timely 3-pointers. Other than that it seems like a lot of dribbling around trying to figure out what to do. As for other aspects of her game, including taking the ball to the hole, creating her own shot, grabbing rebounds, playing stellar defense, taking care of the basketball, we need to see more consistency in these areas. A player who just looks for an open 3-pointer and doesn't do much else, well, it can be hard to watch. It just seems like Hamby has never really caught up with the speed of the college game. So like Thornton, this is her do or die season as a senior. Here's hoping we can get more scoring from Hamby along with improvement in other aspects of her game. Otherwise we will see more action from Justine Hall and the newcomer Tiara Murphy.
We are less than a week away from the exhibition game, and two weeks away from the start of the regular season. It is time for this team to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and at least make it up to be one of the middle tier teams in the Big Ten. Otherwise, well, I don't want to think about the alternative. It would take a whole series of miracles for this team to make it up into the top tier teams in the conference this upcoming season. So measurable improvement in play and W-L record would most likely only take us to somewhere in the middle of the conference. It is a tougher conference now that Maryland and Rutgers have joined the Big Ten.