Gophers have roster depth, flexibility heading into 2020-21

Despite losing four seniors, head coach Lindsay Whalen has many roster options for next season.

Coach Lindsay Whalen watches a play intently at the Gopher women's basketball practice on Monday, Oct. 9, 2018 in the Cunningham Basketball Performance Center.

Tony Saunders

Coach Lindsay Whalen watches a play intently at the Gopher women’s basketball practice on Monday, Oct. 9, 2018 in the Cunningham Basketball Performance Center.

Brendan O'Brien

Over a month has passed since the end of the women’s basketball season, but the Gophers’ roster for 2020-21 is already forming into shape.

Depth became somewhat of an issue for Minnesota toward the end of last season as the Gophers’ rotation generally consisted of seven or eight players. But with some new recruits and transfers joining the program, along with players who did not see action last season, the Gophers could have flexibility in its starting lineup options and see a deeper rotation. 

The Gophers are losing four players to graduation in guards Jasmine Brunson, Masha Adashchyk and sister forwards Taiye and Kehinde Bello. Brunson and Taiye Bello were both regulars in the starting lineup under head coach Lindsay Whalen, each starting at least 27 games the last two seasons. Adashchyk and Kehinde Bello were key role players off the bench last season.

Despite losing some depth in the backcourt with Brunson and Adashchyk, the Gophers had already filled any voids before the end of the season. Guards Jasmine Powell, Sara Scalia and Gadiva Hubbard are all starters returning to next year’s lineup, with Powell expected to be the primary floor general while Scalia and Hubbard continue to be three-point shooting threats. The Gophers will also add incoming recruits Alexia Smith and Caroline Strande to that mix after they signed on last November.

In the paint, filling the void left by Taiye Bello will be challenging for the Gophers, as Bello finished as the leading rebounder in the Big Ten last season. As a team, Minnesota struggled to rebound and ranked 12th out of 14 Big Ten teams in rebounding margin at -1.4 per game. The Gophers also struggled with scoring the ball inside and preventing bigger teams from scoring in the paint. 

Aside from the Bello sisters, the Gophers did not have many forwards or centers with in-game experience. Center Klarke Sconiers saw minimal minutes throughout her freshman season and will be competing for more playing time in the upcoming season. Shortly after the season’s end, the Gophers also added forwards Laura Bagwell-Katalinich and Daja Woodard as transfers, who look to make an immediate impact upon arrival.

Forward Kadi Sissoko redshirted last season and could also see the court in 2020. Sissoko, who is originally from Paris, France, sat out after transferring from Syracuse following her freshman season. Prior to college, she was a former five-star recruit ranked 10th in the nation by ESPN. She will be the highest-ranked recruit to play for the Gophers since Rachel Banham.

Overall, the Gophers hope to have a steadier roster during the 2020-21 season without any mid-season shakeups. Last year, Minnesota lost two players to transfer, including standout forward Destiny Pitts, in the middle of the season.