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Gophers women’s basketball has a different look this season

After losing six players who scored nearly half the Gophers points last season, Minnesota will rely on freshmen and sophomores to step up in 2020-21.
Image by Liam Armstrong
Gophers Forward Jasmine Powell approaches defenders in Williams Arena on Sunday, Feb. 10. The Gophers suffered a defeat against Michigan 52-77.

In her third season as head coach of the Gophers’ women’s basketball team, Lindsay Whalen will look to clinch a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time under her tenure.

Whalen will have a lot of roster turnover heading into the 2020-21 season. Leading scorer, Destiny Pitts, transferred to Texas A&M, and guard Mercedes Staples transferred to San Diego State. The departures continue as sisters Taiye and Kehinde Bello, Jasmine Brunson, and Masha Adashchyk have all graduated. The six players combined for 49.1% of the Gophers’ scoring a season ago.

The Gophers will be very young this season with three incoming freshmen, a handful of contributing sophomores and only one player in her final year of eligibility.

Point Guard
The point guard position was predominantly run by Pitts – the former Big Ten freshman of the year – for the first 15 games of the 2019 season. She averaged 16.3 points and 3.3 assists per contest until Whalen suspended Pitts on Jan. 12 for what was described as “conduct unbecoming of the team.” Pitts later decided to transfer to Texas A&M.

This opened the door for Brunson to take on the role of directing the offense. Brunson averaged 9.8 points and 3 assists while starting every contest but three. She has now graduated, so the Gophers will look for a new face to control the offense in 2020.

Look for sophomore Jasmine Powell, a former four-star recruit, to take on a bigger role in 2020. She led the team with 375 points and 96 assists and was second in points per game behind Pitts, averaging 12.1, while only playing 26.3 minutes per game in her freshman season.

Shooting Guard

Gadvia Hubbard started all 31 games from the shooting guard position in 2019. She played the most minutes on the team, with 32.4 per game, and averaged 11.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.

The Virginia Beach, Virginia, native returns for her redshirt senior year in 2020, and she will likely play a very similar role this season.

Small Forward

A season ago, Sara Scalia started all but one game for the Gophers, playing at both the two and three position. The Stillwater, Minnesota, native averaged 10.8 points and 4.1 rebounds in 32.2 minutes per game in 2019. Entering her sophomore season, with a number of scorers leaving, Scalia has a chance to be a main contributor in the Gophers offense in 2020.

Power Forward

In 2019, the power forward position was handled by a combination of Adashchyk, Scalia and Klarke Sconiers. With Sconiers and Scalia likely seeing time at other positions this season and Adashchyk having graduated, a large gap is open at the power forward position heading into this season.

In comes graduate-transfer Laura Bagwell-Katalinich. Bagwell-Katalinich, an Academy of the Holy Angels graduate, decided to play for the Gophers after a year at Penn and three years at Cornell. The 6’0” forward started 50 of 52 games over the last two years for the Big Red, averaging 14.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game, while shooting 45.6% from the floor and 79.9% from the free-throw line. The Minneapolis native will play a large part in the Gophers’ hopes of returning to the NCAA Tournament in 2020.

The post was usually controlled by Taiye Bello in 2019. Standing at 6’2,” Bello was able to use her size to her advantage. For the duration of the season, she nearly averaged a double-double with 11.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Her production will be missed, as the Gophers only return one player taller than 6’0” who played at least 10 minutes per game last year.

Sconiers was that player — in her freshman season she averaged 2.5 points and 1.6 rebounds in only 10.5 minutes per game. Sconiers fits the trend of sophomores that will be asked to step into a much bigger role in their second season.

Redshirt sophomore Barbora Tomancova could also play a role at the center position in 2020. She appeared in 19 games last season with a small workload of only 7.5 minutes per contest.

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