Gophers women’s basketball to return 12 of 13 players from a season ago

Along with returning 12 players from last season’s team that finished 8-13, Minnesota will add four new players to its roster this season.

New+Gophers+women%E2%80%99s+basketball+head+coach+Lindsay+Whalen+speaks+to+the+media+during+a+press+conference+on+Friday%2C+April+13.

Jack Rodgers

New Gophers women’s basketball head coach Lindsay Whalen speaks to the media during a press conference on Friday, April 13.

Tony Liebert

In only 31 days, the Gophers will be tipping off their 2021-22 campaign at Williams Arena against Jacksonville University. After a disappointing season last year, the expectations of a quick turnaround have arisen thanks to the return of 12 of their 13 players from last season.

Along with its returning players, Minnesota will add four more to a roster with the talent and experience to compete with the best in the Big Ten conference.

“[There’s] a lot of players that know our system, know our program, know our standards, who know what we’re trying to get done,” Gophers head coach Lindsay Whalen said. “[They] have feelings from last year when we struggled at the start and also have feelings when we finished the conference in a good fashion.”

Point Guard

The lead guard position has been handled by Jasmine Powell since she entered the Gophers’ program in 2019. Her 14.5 points-per-game last season tied for first on the team, while her 5.4 assists were also a team high.

Powell was held out of three games last season due to injury, where Alexia Smith and Katie Borowicz both slid into larger roles at the position as freshmen, averaging 27.6 and 12.1 minutes per-game, respectively.

Smith, a combo-guard, could see more time at the two-guard position, while Borowicz could become the primary ball handler off the bench. All three players should see time at point guard in 2021.

Shooting Guard

Gadiva Hubbard has been a staple of the Gophers’ program, as she now heads into her sixth season. The 5-foot-9-inch guard ranked 12th in the Big Ten in 3-pointers made per-game (1.75) while starting 14 of the 16 games she appeared in last season.

Hubbard should see the bulk of minutes at the two-guard position, but Smith could continue to see her role grow this season. After starting 12 games as a true freshman her defense will be vital for this team’s success in 2021.

With so much veteran talent on the roster, true freshman Maggie Czinano will likely redshirt in her first season with the team.

Small Forward

Junior Sara Scalia was one of the Gophers’ best scorers last season, tying with Powell as the team’s leader averaging 14.5 point per contest. Her role should be large again this season, as she led the team with 33.9 minutes per game in 2021.

The backup role at the small forward position should be an open competition. Sophomore Caroline Strande led the group playing 12.3 minutes per game last season, while sophomore Erin Hedman averaged 8.7.

North Carolina A&T transfer Deja Winters will also have every opportunity to have a role on this team, as she averaged 14.1 points per game last season with the Aggies.

Power Forward

The power forward position will continue to be led by redshirt-junior Kadi Sissoko. Standing at 6-feet-2-inches, Sissoko was third on the team in scoring last season (12.6) and first in rebounding (6.6).

Graduate student Laura Bagwell-Katalinich is expected to retain her backup role, after averaging 5.9 points in 18.6 minutes per game last season.

Redshirt-sophomore Grace Cumming will add depth to the position, while true freshman Alana Micheaux will likely redshirt in her first season with the team.

Center

Junior Klarke Sconiers and senior Kayla Mershon should be expected to both play a large role at the center position this season. Sconiers started 14 games last season, while Mershon started the other seven. The duo combined to average 10.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per game last season, and could have similar production this year.

Kansas transfer Bailey Helgren will add depth to the position after averaging two points and 5.6 rebounds last season with the Jayhawks.

After a shortened season last year due to the pandemic, Whalen is looking forward to getting back on the court.

“It’s my fourth year. It’s an exciting time, we’ve been through a pandemic, ups and downs and I feel really, really good about this group,” Whalen said. “I feel like they’re ready to take that step, so there is no question that we’re excited and it’s an exciting time.”