By Lauren Rosenberg
Some might say that the Missouri Tigers women’s basketball team is going through a rebuilding year. Some might say that the team won’t have nearly the splash they had these past few seasons. Some might say they are doomed after losing tons of key players. And then there are the people who believe the Tigers are right where they need to be to build off last season with a vastly different roster.
The Tigers are coming off a season where they shattered their own accolades, advanced to the semi-finals of the Southeastern Conference tournament for the first time since joining the SEC in 2012 and made it to second-round in their fourth consecutive NCAA tournament under the guidance of now tenth year head coach, Robin Pingeton.
But none of those accolades could’ve been done without their dynamic roster that was led by hometown hero and “Mayor of Columbia”, Sophie Cunningham.
That dynamic roster from 2018-2019 has now been decimated due to graduation and transfers but some fresh, new and exciting faces have now suited up in the black and gold and are ready to make an impact.
Who is out:
Missouri lost a total of six players to either graduation or transfer.
Guards Sophie Cunningham and Lauren Aldridge as well as forward Cierra Porter, who came out of medical retirement and appeared in one non-conference game against Arkansas State in 2018 and all of SEC play, were all lost to graduation. Those three players were part of the glue that expressed complete leadership and spark into a young Tiger squad. All three had a vast impact on the team in their own ways. Cunningham being the all time leading scorer for the Tigers, Aldridge with one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the history of the team and Porter with a strong inside game as well as being able to hit from behind the arc.
Cunningham went onto be drafted 13th overall, the first pick in the second round, in the WNBA draft to the Phoenix Mercury and currently plays for them as well as the Melbourne Boomers in the Australian Women’s National Basketball League this offseason.
Aside from the graduates, the team lost forward Grace Berg in January when she transferred to Drake University. The team persevered anyways as they were able to adjust quickly without her. The offseason transfers were what hit the Tigers the most.
Missouri lost bench rider guard Kelsey Winfrey to Division II Drury University, sixth-seventh player forward Emmanuelle Tahane to University of Rhode Island and the player that stung the most to lose, energetic and passionate guard Akira Levy to Vanderbilt University.
Winfrey will not have to take redshirt as she transferred to another division. During her career as a Tiger, she averaged 0.4 points per game, scoring a total of 11, appeared in 27 games for a total of 72 minutes and 2.7 minutes per game. Her loss won’t impact the Tigers too much.
Tahane was a crucial bench player who came in for the Tigers to help with defense and she excelled. As a sophomore, she averaged 3.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in 13.4 minutes per game. Her presence on the floor was crucial and her toughness is a big loss.
Levy would not have been able to compete this season and more than likely would’ve taken redshirt as she tore her ACL back in February in a heartbreaking 58-54 loss at Auburn. She made an immediate impact on the floor appearing in all 28 games and starting four until her season was cut short due to the injury. She averaged 4.4 points, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals in 15.8 minutes per game Her tenacity and fire was a spark for the team whether or not she was on the floor.
Who is in:
Despite losing nearly half of the team, Missouri brought in three transfers; guard Shug Dickson from Tulsa/Texas Tech, and forwards LaDazhia Williams from South Carolina and Shannon Dufficy from Utah State. All three will have to sit out the season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Missouri also recruited three in-state players, guard Aijah Blackwell out of St. Louis, whose father was a star running back for the Tiger’s football team from 1994-1997, and two forwards, Hayley Frank from Stafford and Micah Linthicum from Jefferson City. The three freshmen secured Missouri the No. 12 overall 2019 recruiting class ranking.
No. 33 Aijha Blackwell-Guard (Fr., Berkely, Mo.)
If you’re from Missouri or are familiar with Missouri high school women’s hoops, you know who Aijha Blackwell is. If you’re familiar with her father, Ernest Blackwell, you know who she is. Blackwell has strong Tiger ties.
Blackwell starred at Whitfield School where she averaged 24.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game as a junior. She transferred to Cardinal Ritter but was unable to play her senior season due to transfer rules.
Despite that, she still maintained a top-10 ranking in the class of 2019 as she was a five star prospect who ranked ninth overall by ESPNW HoopGurlz and the first overall recruit in Missouri.
Blackwell was apart of the USA U18 team who copped the gold medal in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship against Canada. She was also a participant of the 2019 USA U19 World Cup team trials.
No. 40 Micah Linthacum (Fr., Jefferson City)
Linthacum comes to Missouri as a three-star recruit and the eighteenth ranked forward in the nation. As a senior, she led her team to their first ever state championship. With her 6-foot-4 frame, she will bring height that the Tigers are in desperate need of.
No. 43 Hayley Frank (Fr., Strafford, Mo.)
Frank is another five-star recruit that chose to stay in Missouri to suit up in black and gold. She was ranked no. 26 in the nation by ESPN Hoopgurlz and no. two in Missouri after Blackwell. For two consecutive seasons, her junior and senior years, she was Missouri’s Gatorade women’s player of the year. In her career, she surpassed the 3000 point and 1000 rebound club with 3003 points, 1629 rebounds as well as 824 assists. She led her team to their fourth consecutive Class 3A state championship and a perfect 33-0 while averaging 24.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 3.0 steals and 2.2 blocks as a senior. Frank has the ability to play both forward and guard. Her versatility will allow for quick ball-handling in the post as well as the ability to drain three-pointers.
No. 45 Brittany Garner (RS-Fr. Philadelphia)
Garner was not able to compete last season due to a shoulder injury. Losing her for a season where the Tigers needed height and post presence due to a thin depth chart was a huge blow. But Garner is back and ready for action. Garner has a natural instinct for defense. As a senior, she recorded a total 70 blocks and 32 steals. Her presence in the post will cause a disruption in the paint on both ends of the floor.
No. 11 Haley Troup (Rs-So. Gadsden, Ala.)
Troup was a valuable asset off the bench. She was automatic from behind the arc as she nailed 30 threes at a 36 percent clip . Troup averaged 3.3 points in 12.1 minutes per game but that didn’t stop her from having an impact off the bench. When the Tigers visited no. 10 Tennessee on Jan 6, Troup was a valuable asset off the bench. She played a career high 29 minutes and added 16 points on four-of-six shooting. Missouri went on to upset the Volunteers for their first ever win at “The Summit” in a tightly contested score of 66-64. Troup’s sharpshooting will help enhance the outside presence and her minutes will vastly increase throughout the season.
No. 0 Ladazhia Williams (Jr., Brandenton, Fla.)
Williams transferred from SEC rival South Carolina and will be taking redshirt this season due to NCAA transfer rules.
No. 10 Nadia Green (Jr., Chicago)
Throughout her career, Green rode the bench. Her production, when she was on the court, decreased from her freshman to sophomore years. As a freshman, she averaged 1.1 points, a total of 21, 6.4 minutes per game in 19 appearances. As a sophomore, she averaged 0.3 points, a total of six, 2.6 minutes per game in 18 appearances. There isn’t much to say due to not really seeing anything from her these past two seasons but I’d expect her to have a vast increase in minutes this season.
No. 12 Elle Brown (Jr., Columbia)
Brown, just like Green, rode the bench and her production. The difference is that she averaged 1 point per game both seasons and appeared in 17 games as a sophomore, up from 12 games as a freshman. She did average less minutes per game from her freshman to sophomore years, 4.6 and 2.8 respectively. Expect her to also get a vast increase in minutes and to climb the depth chart throughout the season.
No. 1 Shug Dickson (Sr., St. Louis)
Dickson is a two-time transfer, starting in Tulsa and than moving to Texas Tech where she took redshirt for the rest of the season. She will also be taking redshirt due to NCAA transfer rules.
No. 5 Shannon Dufficy (Sr., Melbourne, Australia)
Dufficy was a star player at Utah State. She will be taking redshirt due to NCAA transfer rules.
No. 13 Hannah Schuchts (RS-Sr., Tallahassee, Florida)
Schuchts stepped up her game last season with the absence of Cierra Porter due to her medical retirement before she came back. She appeared in all 35 games and started in 19 until Porter came back. She was named the Gulf Coast tournament MVP, played in Florida from Nov 23-25, 2018, with a season and career high 30 minute appearance against Michigan on the 23rd. She also had her best career game in the tournament when scored 25 points on 8-8 shooting and 6-6 from three against Duke on the 25th. Her inside defense is also stellar. Last season, she had a total of 80 blocks for 2.3 per game and averaged 3.5 rebounds. Her production on the court increased dramatically due to more playing time of 15.5 minutes per game. She is more than likely a lock for starter again this season and expect her production to increase even more with her leadership.
No. 22 Jordan Roundtree (Sr., St. Louis)
As a sophomore, Roundtree showed sparks of potential and her athleticism in 32 game appearances. As a junior, she proved herself enough to earn herself a spot in the starting rotation. She appeared in all 35 games and started 24 of them; taking over Levy in the beginning of non-conference play. Her averages increased dramatically. She averaged 17.7 minutes per game, as opposed to 4.0 and 8.8 as a freshman and sophomore respectively. She averaged 4.3 points per game, up from 0.7 and 1.6, and had a total of 15 steals. She proved her athleticism with her quickness in transition, fastbreaks and everytime she stole the ball and went from coast-to-coast. She is a lock to start and has proven that she is more than capable of helping to facilitate a successful starting core.
No. 23 Amber Smith (Sr., Shreveport, La.)
Missouri fans all know and love Amber Smith. Opponents know who Amber Smith is. The NCAA knows who she is. And for good reason. She is tenacious on the court and further proves that she is a leader and the out-of-state version of Cunningham. Smith has the most accolades out of all the veterans on the team and rightfully so. She asserted herself as a freshman and has continued to improve. Smith was a double-double machine last season, recording a team leading seven and came close to getting nine more. She started in all 35 games and averaged 12.4 points and 6.9 rebounds in 28.5 minutes per game. Smith is a true leader for this Tiger squad and is a definite and undeniable lock to start.
No. 24 Jordan Chavis (Sr., Lexington, Nc.)
Chavis appeared in all 35 games with six starts. Her production decreased from her first two seasons to her junior season. As a freshman, she averaged 3.5 points in 13.6 minutes per game. As a sophomore, she averaged 5.5 points in 20.2 minutes per game but also copped one start when Cunningham was out for a game with an injury. Last season, she dipped and averaged 3 points in 13.3 minutes per game. Despite a dip in her production, she will still be a valuable bench asset and has a chance to be a productive reserve for the Tigers.
Depth Chart Prediction
|Point Guard||Shooting Guard||Small Forward||Power Forward||Center|
|Jordan Roundtree||Haley Troup||Amber Smith*||Hayley Frank||Hannah Schuchts|
|Jordan Chavis||Aijha Blackwell*||Brittany Garner||Micah Linthicum|
|Elle Brown||Nadia Green|
Edited by Garrett Jones | email@example.com