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Author Topic: MU Women's Basketball Thread  (Read 68827 times)

shoothoops

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #875 on: April 12, 2022, 09:01:34 PM »
Beat you to it by about 4 minutes :) .  I hope she's a good outside shooter - they really need that.

She waited to hear who SLU’s new coach would be. (Rebecca Tillett) And shortly after SLU announced its new head coach, Kenzie committed to MUWBB.

I meant to say Naperville North, not Central. She transferred there from Bartlett. She played AAU with M14 Hoops out of Aurora.

Her sister plays D2 at UMSL (University of Missouri St. Louis)

Yes, she can shoot it. She made 102 three pointers as a Freshman. Then she worked to develop other aspects of her game.

Her nickname is “Cheese.”


warriorchick

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #876 on: April 14, 2022, 10:43:36 PM »



I meant to say Naperville North, not Central. She transferred there from Bartlett. She played AAU with M14 Hoops out of Aurora.


Do you follow girl's HS hoops in Illinois?

My next door neighbor's kid was a 2-time all-stater at Bartlett.  Ended up playing for Wisconsin.  Probably one of the few D-1 basketball players (man or woman) that graduated on time with an Engineering degree.
Have some patience, FFS.

shoothoops

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #877 on: April 15, 2022, 08:47:03 AM »
Do you follow girl's HS hoops in Illinois?

My next door neighbor's kid was a 2-time all-stater at Bartlett.  Ended up playing for Wisconsin.  Probably one of the few D-1 basketball players (man or woman) that graduated on time with an Engineering degree.

I do.

Jacki Gulczynski?

Kenzie Hare is a nice pick up for Marquette. Her older sister Kayla played at Bartlett.


warriorchick

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #878 on: April 15, 2022, 06:11:54 PM »
I do.

Jacki Gulczynski?


Yep, that's her. 
« Last Edit: April 15, 2022, 06:16:13 PM by warriorchick »
Have some patience, FFS.

Marquette Fan

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #879 on: April 17, 2022, 11:18:06 AM »
Nia Clark is transferring from Xavier to Marquette - https://twitter.com/raoul_000/status/1515699521170329605?s=21&t=4_odyeojddW-XzV0nDrTfg

She started at Miami where she played for Duffy.

Dr. Blackheart

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #880 on: April 18, 2022, 08:22:52 AM »
Nia Clark is transferring from Xavier to Marquette - https://twitter.com/raoul_000/status/1515699521170329605?s=21&t=4_odyeojddW-XzV0nDrTfg

She started at Miami where she played for Duffy.

Grad transfer but a RS Sophomore? 

shoothoops

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #881 on: April 18, 2022, 08:29:29 AM »
Grad transfer but a RS Sophomore?

She started at Miami Ohio, had an injury. Then transferred to Xavier and sat out a year. Then she played two years at Xavier.

Marquette Fan

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #882 on: April 18, 2022, 09:35:39 PM »
She started at Miami Ohio, had an injury. Then transferred to Xavier and sat out a year. Then she played two years at Xavier.

Yep - she played in 9 games before getting hurt her freshman year at Miami in 2018-19.  Here's the info from her Xavier bio:

XAVIER
REDSHIRT-FRESHMAN (2020-21)
Played and started in 13 games... ranked second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.5 points per game... ranked 23rd in the BIG EAST in scoring... led the team in three pointers made (16)... ranked second on the team in total steals (26)... averaged 26.7 minutes per team, ranking second on the team... added 24 assists and three blocks... averaged 1.4 rebounds per game... posted a .377 field-goal percentage... averaged 2.0 steals per game, ranking sixth in the BIG EAST and third among conference freshmen... ranked seventh in the BIG EAST in three-point field-goal percentage (.372), while ranking second among conference freshmen... ranked 126th in the NCAA in steals per game... had 10 steals in the season-opening win at Detroit Mercy, the second most in single-game XU history... the 10 steals were also the most in a game by a BIG EAST player during the season, while ranking tied for fifth in the NCAA... scored in double figures eight times... scored a season-high 19 points at Valparaiso on Dec. 16... was named to the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll on Dec. 28... was named the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week on Nov. 30.

FRESHMAN (2019-20)
Did not see action during her first season with the program... sat out due to NCAA transfer rules.

MIAMI OHIO (2018-19)
Appeared in nine games (six starts) during the 2018-19 season before suffering a season-ending injury... averaged 10.6 points and 2.7 rebounds per game for the RedHawks.. scored a season-high 17 points at No. 5 Louisville on Nov. 26.

HIGH SCHOOL
Was a two-time all-state selection at Ben Davis HS and was named to the Indiana All-Star team as a senior... finished her high school career in the 1,000-point club.

I forgot she was dismissed from Xavier's team for a violation of team rules in February (I rememberd Kae Satterfield was who is now transferring to Seton Hall but forgot who the other player was) - https://www.cincinnati.com/story/sports/college/xavier/xaviersports/2022/02/21/xavier-womens-basketball-dismisses-2-players-violating-team-rules/6884842001/
« Last Edit: April 18, 2022, 09:48:15 PM by Marquette Fan »

Marquette Fan

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #883 on: April 18, 2022, 09:38:07 PM »
Article on former MU player Erin Monfre working as a trainer for another Bucks player Wes Matthews who also played at MU of course  - https://www.jsonline.com/story/sports/nba/bucks/2022/04/15/milwaukee-bucks-wes-matthews-helped-by-erin-monfre-and-angela-rodriguez-as-nba-playoffs-vs-bulls-set/7323672001/

Marquette Fan

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #884 on: April 26, 2022, 06:58:30 PM »
A sophomore in HS who recently got an offer from MU:  https://twitter.com/amiahhargrove22/status/1519077570150649861

shoothoops

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #885 on: April 27, 2022, 10:31:38 AM »
A sophomore in HS who recently got an offer from MU:  https://twitter.com/amiahhargrove22/status/1519077570150649861

Her first offer was in grade school. (Illinois) Lisa Stone, Missouri State etc soon followed.

Lots of Big 10 interest and offers, DePaul, etc…keeps growing.

6’2 Small Forward. Total package as a player and person. Can create her own shot, score, rebound, transition, Free Throws, 80%, 35% from 3.

MVP of U17 Boo Williams this past weekend for Bradley Beal Elite. Two time First Team All State.

Good athlete, has run track, (her dad was a former NFL Defensive End)

She’s located about 20 miles from Carbondale Illinois.

Marquette Fan

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #886 on: April 29, 2022, 02:10:36 PM »
Former MU Coach Carolyn Kieger signs s contract extension at Penn State:  https://gopsusports.com/news/2022/4/29/womens-basketball-kieger-signs-contract-extension-with-lady-lions.aspx?fbclid=IwAR0O5fAKxkIe_8ipfWuDsPux1CR0kX2TG9gRJ58FklGC4w8SX0EuaSZH-_0

I put this in this thread as Kieger has a lot of ties to MU as a former player and coach.

MU Fan in Connecticut

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #887 on: May 02, 2022, 07:24:47 AM »
I see a local player and student is headed to play for the Marquette women next year.

WhiteTrash

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #888 on: May 02, 2022, 08:11:41 AM »
Former MU Coach Carolyn Kieger signs s contract extension at Penn State:  https://gopsusports.com/news/2022/4/29/womens-basketball-kieger-signs-contract-extension-with-lady-lions.aspx?fbclid=IwAR0O5fAKxkIe_8ipfWuDsPux1CR0kX2TG9gRJ58FklGC4w8SX0EuaSZH-_0

I put this in this thread as Kieger has a lot of ties to MU as a former player and coach.
She's 27-56 at PSU. Is that such a bad program that 32% win rate gets you an extension? I don't follow the women's game but I assume your going to get 5-7 wins per year versus cupcakes like the men do.

As a fellow MU alum, I'm happy for her and I hope she does well.

shoothoops

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #889 on: May 02, 2022, 08:11:54 AM »
I see a local player and student is headed to play for the Marquette women next year.

Yep. Marquette offered late July last year and, she chose Marquette two months later over Houston.

MU Fan in Connecticut

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #890 on: May 02, 2022, 09:00:08 AM »
Another article in yesterday's New Haven Register discussing WNBA players playing in other leagues in the off season to earn additional money.  Rules are changing in 2023.  Starts out by discussing Natisha Hiedeman.


WNBA
Players seeking overseas alternatives
By Maggie Vanoni

UNCASVILLE — Over 5,000 miles and an 11-hour time difference separated Natisha Hiedeman from her family back home in Wisconsin.

Before the Russian Premier League was cut short last winter due to the country’s invasion of Ukraine, the 25-year-old Connecticut Sun guard was playing for Nadezhda — her third overseas team since becoming a professional player in 2019.

This was her third winter spent alone, detached from family and friends, only able to catch them late at night on the phone before she went to bed and while they were just starting their day a continent away.

“You’re over there by yourself, like that’s really what it is,” Hiedeman said.

Hiedeman’s story is not unique. For most WNBA players, the job as a professional player doesn’t stop when a champion is crowned at the end of the season.

Players start competing for international leagues oftentimes immediately following the conclusion of the WNBA season. They travel to countries all over the world to compete, grow their game and earn income.

For some, competing overseas is worth it for the lucrative contracts. But for others, the months spent away from family and friends is hard, especially when the overseas season overlaps with winter holidays and ends when the WNBA season begins.

Leaving hardly any time for breaks and rest in between.

The politics behind overseas seasons go even deeper.

Per the WNBA’s new prioritization rules, which go into effect next season, players can be punished for arriving late to training camp. The WNBA season starts in early May while training camp usually runs the two weeks before — conflicting with Euro League championship schedules.

There’s also the matter of safety as the world continues to heal from the COVID-19 pandemic and international warfare.

In February, seven-time WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner was detained at a Russian airport in Moscow after Russian officials reportedly found cannabis oil in vape cartridges in her luggage. Her detainment came within the same month Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

Balancing careers both in the WNBA and overseas is nothing new to women’s basketball players. While competing overseas is optional, the rawness of Grin-er’s situation on top of the league’s new rules and the inaugural season of the new United States-based offseason Athletes Unlimited, the worth and willingness by athletes to compete during the offseason in foreign countries becomes more debatable.

Players such as Hiedeman are questioning the value.

“As much mentally as physically, these players are asked to play year-round and they go one season to another,” Sun head coach Curt Miller said. “These pros, the sacrifices go to an extremely high level. They play year-round, they’re away from family and friends, out of the country, they never get their bodies a break.

“The mental toll that it takes on them, add these last couple years, the added mental stress of COVID and bubbled seasons and all your testing and all the medical requirements around our seasons. It’s remarkable these guys do what they do.”

While young girls dream of playing collegiately and in the WNBA, it’s not until their college-aged years that the reality of playing overseas becomes an option. For those who go undrafted or don’t make rosters following training camp, going overseas can be the only option to play professionally.

The WNBA’s offseason is longer than its four-to-five-month summer schedule. Finding a league to continue to play in, sharpen your skills, and get paid to do what you love can often be the most productive way to spend the offseason.

PROS AND CONS

The biggest reason WNBA players play overseas is for the steep increase in salary compared to playing in the WNBA. The league’s supermax salary — reserved for the best of the best — is $228,094 for the 2022 season. Overseas contracts can more than double that number. ESPN reported former UConn great and current Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart earns about $1.5 million playing overseas during a single season.

Beyond the the income is the opportunity to face the world’s best players on big stages. Rosters feature a collage of players from all over the world, some from the WNBA and others from international senior teams. Each vying to battle it out in the postseason in the FIBA circuit or in each country’s league championships.

“I knew that I had an option, but I wanted to grow my game. I was excited about overseas,” 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones said about her first year overseas. “I played in Korea. It was a great experience. We won a championship. I came back in really great shape and after that it was my first year being an All-Star, my second year in the league. … It’s an aspect that has helped my game grow and has allowed me to come back every year better.”

There’s also the traveling aspect as players experience new places, new cultures, food, and meeting new people.

“I really just like the experience of it,” said Jasmine Thomas, 11-year vet in the WNBA and key starter for the Sun. “Being in different cultures, getting to know the language, the food and just seeing something different every year. Without basketball, I don’t know if I would have those opportunities.”

The hardest parts of competing overseas? The time away from family while being alone in a foreign country between practice and games. Juggling brutal time differences just to be able to check in with those back in the States. For some players, being so far from loved ones creates an overwhelming sense of loneliness.

“You might not talk to your people for however long,” Hiedeman said. “I definitely do not like going overseas. I do not ever want to have to go overseas ever again, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.”

Even though players are surrounded by their international team staff and teammates, most clubs don’t provide translators. Some teams may have multiple WNBA players or players who know English on their roster, others may only have one. For players without means to translators, they’re left to fight the language barrier both on and off the court.

Taja Cole, former Virginia Tech guard, said she hired a tutor out of her own pocket to help her learn Spanish basketball terminology during her time playing in Spain. Each day before practice, the tutor would teach the point guard how to call out plays in Spanish.

The lack of built-in rest between the international season and WNBA can also be risky for athletes’ health. Without proper rest, injuries are more likely to occur especially when players are competing year-round.

“Every single one of our players that had been overseas I feel like have had swollen knees this year,” Miller said. “We’re getting MRIs sent back to our team docs from foreign countries and could we read them, could we not. I’m telling you, nearly everyone overseas has something going on and our medical doctors are looking at back here from their seasons overseas and it’s just wear-and-tear.

“It’s not acute injury. It’s not necessarily a major injury, knock on wood, it’s just so much wear-and-tear on them day after day after day that they play 12 months out of the year.”

Safety is also the utmost concern.

Griner’s situation is delicate. There have been few updates about her legal status in Russia and whether she will face serious criminal charges. With Russia still at war with Ukraine, the situation has become even more fragile as some avoid bringing unwanted attention to the issue in risk of making her a pawn. It is unknown when Griner will return to the United States and when or if she’ll rejoin the Phoenix Mercury this season.

“I know BG has family, she has people that care about her, and the fact that she’s stuck over there, it’s not anything to play with,” Cole said. “I think people don’t realize how serious it is, unless it’s you, but it’s something I think about it every day and I just hope that we can keep our players in the States.”

NEW RULES

The WNBA’s latest Collective Bargaining Agreement brought positive change to the league. It bumped up the salary cap and brought better benefits for players who require childcare and maternity leave.

Yet, it also introduced strict rules for league prioritization.

Starting with the 2023 season, any player with three years or more in the league will be fined if they miss the start of training camp and suspended for the season if they miss the start of the regular season (usually two weeks following the start of camp).

Per the CBA, starting in 2024 a player can be suspended for the whole season if they’re late to training camp.

“I don’t really agree with it,” Jones said about the new rules. “I feel like the league understands the situation that we’re in as WNBA players and I think the league is moving in the right direction in terms of how they pay the players, but ultimately a lot of us go over there to really just make more money and help our families out more, so I feel like it’s kinda like a sore spot in the CBA.”

The Russian league, which Jones plays for on UMMC Ekaterinburg, ended its season early following the invasion of Ukraine. Jones, along with Hiedeman, returned to the U.S. early. They took two months off from basketball, rested, and spent time with family and friends.

Jones was able to participate in the Sun’s training camp for the first time in years. Miller said he felt Jones had a better mental state to start the season, more rested and loose, because of her unexpected break.

“To be fortunate to have a break that also was not expected to be able to get around family and friends and take a deep breath; JJ that’s in the Bahamas and Atlanta, Natisha that’s in Wisconsin,” he said. “Just to be around family and friends, what that does mentally, for your mental health, it is invaluable. It’s priceless for them.”

ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION

Athletes Unlimited debuted its basketball season earlier this winter. It was the first time the league held a basketball league after previously launching softball, lacrosse and volleyball seasons.

While the league is uniquely structured — teams are re-drafted every week during the five-week season with players chosen as captains to direct plays and lineups to help each player and team earn points — it provides a domestic option for those seeking competition during the WNBA offseason.

The pay, however, isn’t yet comparable to a WNBA or overseas season. Per The Washington Post, AU basketball players averaged over $20,000 with the opportunity to collect bonuses based off performance in games. The player with the most points at the end of the season could, reportedly, up their earnings to $40,000.

The Sun had three players participate in the league’s inaugural season: Cole, DiJonai Carrington and Courtney Williams. Each said they loved the experience and are interested in doing it again next year.

“It was fire. It was dope, man, I loved everything about it,” said Williams, a six-year WNBA veteran. “The way they treated players, the facility, our living circumstances, everything was dope, man. Sign me up every year. I’m there.”

The chance to remain in the States was breath of fresh air for those who previously traveled overseas. While AU is still just a fraction of the schedule and salary of playing internationally, both Williams and Cole agreed the league will grow and convince more players to not compete overseas.

“They want to keep our American women and Australians that play over here for college, they want to keep us over here with our families,” Cole said. “You have some league (WNBA) players that have babies, so going overseas is kinda hard for them to stick with their families. So, I think definitely, this is the future. … “A lot of people are realizing that we can stay over here and make our money and I think investors are starting to get on board with that and make things happen.”

There’s no clear solution to the overseas balance. There’s not a one-size-fits-all option.

But having options is the start. Whether that’s the growth of AU or more domestic leagues popping up and the WNBA creating new outlines in the CBA for salary room and prioritization.

“I’mma be honest, like yeah I want to stay in shape, but I can stay in shape (during the offseason),” Hiedeman said. “I’ve got a lot of people who I could work out with and places where I could play basketball. With Athletes Unlimited being a thing, that overseas might be gone and out the water now. … “I love the WNBA. Like I’m proud to be in the WNBA, like I love this more than going overseas, but people got to, people got families they got to support.”

At the end of the day, players just want to extend their dream of getting paid to do something they love for as long as they can.

“I’m older so for me overseas is definitely something that I want to do if I can do it 100 percent and that might look different for me in different ways,” Thomas said. “Maybe not a whole season, maybe going to a team or country where I know I’m not playing 40 minutes all the time or signing contracts to make me comfortable and make me happy. I definitely enjoy it and as long as I’m healthy I want to play as much basketball as I can.”

maggie.vanoni  @hearstmediact.com

JWags85

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #891 on: May 02, 2022, 09:25:26 AM »
The economics of it all are interesting.  I think they will struggle to keep the Aussie players in the offseason, cause they go play in the WNBL and get to be home in Australia when doing so.  AU is a nice option popping up, but I struggle to see it as a true alternative to mid 6 figure salaries for playing for Russian and Euro teams that are glamour hobbies with no salary caps for companies/owners over there.

Speaking of Australia, playing year round is actually something a lot of the non-star men's players in the NBL do as well.  They play in either the lower NZ league or the secondary Aussie leagues, both for extra income, as well as offseason conditioning.

MU82

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #892 on: May 02, 2022, 09:54:56 AM »
Very interesting read, MUFiC. Thanks for posting.
"We understand that for some reason, to people with money, to people who fund political campaigns, guns are more important than children. Today we stand for Lexi, and as her voice, we demand action."

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Marquette Fan

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #893 on: May 02, 2022, 08:54:00 PM »
She's 27-56 at PSU. Is that such a bad program that 32% win rate gets you an extension? I don't follow the women's game but I assume your going to get 5-7 wins per year versus cupcakes like the men do.

As a fellow MU alum, I'm happy for her and I hope she does well.

Penn State was a very strong program for many years and long time coach Rene Portland had a lot of success there (coached there from 1982-2007).  Coquese Washington coached there from 2007-2019 and was pretty successful in seasons 4-7 there but then they really fell off after that.

I'm a tad surprised Kieger got an extension at this point with her 27-56 record at Penn State.  I didn't see it publicized anywhere how long the extension is.  I watched Kieger play here and coach here - I wish her well except for if she ever faces Marquette - I will root for Marquette in that case :).

Ardmore Mug

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #894 on: May 03, 2022, 10:45:45 AM »
I think part of the reasons she got her extension were stated in the article:
"The Lady Lions have increased their win totals in each of Kieger's first three seasons in Happy Valley. "

"From 2020-21 to 2021-22, Penn State improved in field goal percentage (41.4 to 43.0), free throw percentage (68.5 to 74.9), field goal percentage defense (44.7 to 43.3), blocks per game (2.6 to 4.4) and steals per game (7.7 to 9.6). The Lady Lions led the Big Ten with 269 steals."

"In three seasons, Kieger has coached five All-Big Ten selections, including two first-team honorees, a Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year and two Big Ten All-Freshman members. The Lady Lions have also excelled in the classroom under Kieger with 16 Academic All-Big Ten selections, three Big Ten Distinguished Scholars and Makenna Marisa being named CoSIDA Academic All-America third team. In 2021-22, Kieger guided Marisa to a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection."
 
Solid Improvements ! ! !  8-)

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« Last Edit: May 17, 2022, 08:58:25 AM by Marquette Fan »

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #896 on: May 26, 2022, 08:29:58 PM »
A nice update article from Ben Steele:

https://sports.yahoo.com/closer-look-three-recent-commitments-163653179.html?guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAKQ3GEHcsAS8Rb15Hsye_PTNS2tkvk6t8GNTZiFVnEiGPE8O7j-SMrIBEwZaUyk10BlD6QRX3ixklh_VA_e6EZUe3etTy85ZyuCaOuLGkX39U_35vLgS_IREdxdGkYAgXWmRiNZo9b8oCleOzxUz1arkIV671XrRtRm28B1rt9W7

I hadn't heard yet where Middleton was transferring to and it says Illinois-Chicago in this article.  I find it interesting that Marquette still has Middleton and Antwainette Walker still listed on their roster as both had announced awhile ago that they were entering the transfer portal.  I'm also surprised they haven't announced anything about Kenzie Hare or Nia Clark either.  I know they can't announce anything about Halle Vice until she is able to officially sign with MU.

And some MU tweets about some players who graduated this year with some continuing on with grad school and credit to MU for including Walker here even though she entered the transfer portal:

Jordan King and Claire Kaifes pick up their undergrad degrees in 3 years:
https://twitter.com/MarquetteWBB/status/1529922123652907017

Antwainette Walker:
https://twitter.com/MarquetteWBB/status/1529545731476008960

Chloe Marotta:
https://twitter.com/MarquetteWBB/status/1529157885510434816

And the seniors who are now done at MU - LVK and Karissa McLaughlin:
https://twitter.com/MarquetteWBB/status/1528441819679363079

It will be kind of weird not to see LVK on the floor for MU next season after all her time here.

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #897 on: May 30, 2022, 07:15:36 PM »
Just got tickets for the August 7th Connecticut Sun at Chicago Sky game at Wintrust Arena.  This will be my first WNBA season game and I'm looking forward to seeing Natisha Hiedeman play in person.  She's gotten more PT lately because Jasmine Thomas tore her ACL :(.

Random fun fact - I have attended a preseason WNBA game as they had one at the Al for the Sky in 2007 when Christina Quaye from Marquette was with the Sky in the preseason - was fun to see her play for the Sky in that exhibition game.

MU Fan in Connecticut

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #898 on: June 10, 2022, 11:41:26 AM »
Published this week in the New Haven Register.


CT Sun’s Natisha Hiedeman supports fiancée Jasmine Thomas through injury — while replacing her in lineup
June 8, 2022
Updated: June 8, 2022 5:17 p.m.
https://www.nhregister.com/sports/article/CT-Sun-s-Natisha-Hiedeman-supports-fiancee-17226057.php#photo-22572292

UNCASVILLE — Natisha Hiedeman could see the visible pain her fiancée Jasmine Thomas was experiencing from across the court.

Thomas had driven into the key about eight minutes into the Sun’s game at Indiana on May 22. She leaped in front of the basket for a layup, but the ball bounced off the backboard. Thomas appeared to side-step before falling backward to the floor under the basket.

She immediately grabbed her right knee and crumpled herself against the hoop’s support frame out of bounds.

Hiedeman watched from the end of the Sun’s bench. Thomas had torn her ACL and would be out the remainder of the 2022 WNBA season.

“She’s the type of player, like she don’t really get hurt so when she’s hurt you know,” Hiedeman told Hearst CT Media Tuesday.

In the seven games since Thomas’ injury, Hiedeman has replaced her as the Sun’s starting point guard. While she remains a support system for Thomas off the court in her recovery process, Hiedeman has learned to play with more confidence on the court through the help of her fiancée.

Hiedeman and Thomas have been dating for the last two and a half years after becoming close friends when Hiedeman joined the Sun during the preseason of 2019. Thomas, 32, was in her fourth season with the Sun and ninth overall in the WNBA, while Hiedeman, 25, was a rookie.

They got engaged in September 2021.

Hiedeman says Thomas brings out the best version of her, including getting her to become more adventurous and try new foods or explore more when they travel.

“She just makes me a better person all around,” Hiedeman said. “Like definitely a better basketball player and then just a better person because she’s so genuine and caring and like she also puts a lot of people before herself.”

Thomas is more than just a teammate to Hiedeman. She’s a girlfriend, now fiancée, mentor and best friend.

That’s why when Thomas went down at Indiana, Hiedeman couldn’t stop worrying about her.

Team trainers took Thomas off the court and into the locker room, meanwhile, Hiedeman was subbed in to replace her on the court.

At halftime, Hiedeman rushed over to Thomas in the locker room to make sure she was OK.

“I was worried because I didn’t know what it was,” Hiedeman said. “It’s like your best friend falling hurt but then you don’t have the opportunity to talk to them and then they just go and you go to work, like you’re obviously gonna wonder.”

The Sun announced two days later Thomas had been diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and would miss the rest of the season. Connecticut was only five games into the season.

Hiedeman took over Thomas’ starting spot in Connecticut’s next game on May 24 against Dallas. She was one of two starters to play more than 30 minutes in the Sun’s loss.

The former Marquette star looked more comfortable in her new role the following game two days later, also against the Wings. Hiedeman played a team-high 31 minutes and led with six assists. Her 17 points were second-most on the team while she led with a +36 in plus-minus.

“Natisha really set the stage for us with a great plus-minus, just played terrifically,” Sun coach Curt Miller said after the game. “I met with Natisha today and told her she didn’t have to be Jas. She can’t be Jas. She’s gotta be herself. She played really well ... she was really good and we were really good because she was on the floor.”

Thomas has also told Hiedeman to just be herself out on the court, which helped her gain more confidence.

“She’s always been like a mentor/coach to me,” Hiedeman said. “I’ve been here since I was a rookie so she kinda just walked me through the ropes you know, and now she’s like doing that extra loud because she’s seeing everything and being able to help me and tell me ... She always feeds like a lot of energy and confidence into me. She’s just always encouraging me like all the time. I think she knows the player that I’m capable of being and she’s pushing me to get there.”

During home games, Thomas is often the loudest on the bench. She cheers for each of her teammates and points out areas where they could be better, both individually and as a team.

“We constantly heard her tonight, first and foremost,” Miller said after the Sun’s win over Dallas on May 26. “That’s the unselfish person that she is. That she’s still in it, 100 percent in street clothes. You could hear her throughout with really good, encouraging words, leadership words. You gotta believe that she’s been in the ear of Natisha and helping drive Natisha.”

Since her injury prevents Thomas from traveling with the team on road trips, she keeps up the support by sending Hiedeman texts of what she sees via the TV broadcast for her to read at halftime.

Hiedeman has started all seven games since Thomas’ injury. She’s averaged 8.8 points, 3.3 assists, 1.6 rebounds in 22.8 minutes per game in that time frame — an improvement in both points and minutes compared to her first five games of the season.

She makes sure to return the favor of support off the court.

Thomas is having surgery on her knee Wednesday morning. Hiedeman is skipping the team’s game-day morning shoot around to be with her fiancée at the hospital.

“For me it’s just important to understand what she’s going through and try to be super supportive and just be a good friend and a good partner and at the same time also a good teammate,” Hiedeman said. “She’s never been seriously injured or had a surgery or anything so just being there for her through every step of the way, I feel like that will help and she’ll appreciate the support.”

While she’ll have to return to Mohegan Sun to play Wednesday night’s game against Indiana, Hiedeman says her mom, Shelly, is flying in from Green Bay, Wis. to be with Thomas and help with her recovery. The average recovery time for ACL injuries is about eight to nine months.

“She’s just really anxious to get the surgery done so she can just start recovering and knowing how she is, her mindset, she’s just gonna want to go, like she gonna be back before I think she’s supposed to be back because that’s just her mindset,” Hiedeman said. “But she’s the type of the person where she’s gonna do everything herself, so now she’s gonna have to sit down and let other people help her for a little while while she recovers.”

Hiedeman and Thomas were in the midst of planning for their October wedding when Thomas got hurt.

With Thomas now in recovery mode, the couple has decided to postpone the wedding.

“It was kinda sad but she wanted to be able to experience it,” Hiedeman said. “Like I don’t like cake so we’re not having a cake, but like doughnut testing and going to try on her dress with her family and stuff like that. So now that it’s pushed back she’ll for sure be able to do that.”

Of the two, only Thomas has a protected contract with the Sun — making the fact that they’ve had the chance to play together on the same team for the past few seasons a rarity. With how sudden cuts and trades can be, Hiedeman appreciates the time they’ve been able to share as teammates and hopes it will continue following this season.

“I was still hoping for the best before we got the MRI, but once I found out it was ACL it was sad because I really enjoy playing next to her and just being on the floor with her,” Hiedeman said. “You never know what next year will bring so I don’t know, it’s just kinda sad knowing that I’m not gonna play with her on the court this year.”

maggie.vanoni@hearstmediact.com

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Re: MU Women's Basketball Thread
« Reply #899 on: June 24, 2022, 08:55:45 AM »
I find it interesting that Marquette has yet to announce they added an additional freshman and a transfer.  But their 22-23 roster is up to date now and that information can be seen there:

https://gomarquette.com/sports/womens-basketball/roster?path=wbball

Mackenzie Hare is the additional freshman from the 3 they signed in Fall 2021. And Nia Clark is the transfer.

I also noticed Nirel Lougbo at the bottom with no number assigned.  Her bio says for 22-23:
>Has been medically disqualified from playing, but will remain on the team.

 

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