Indiana women’s basketball has talent.
The Hoosiers open the 2022-23 season ranked No. 11 in the AP Poll, and boast what may be an overall stronger and deeper roster than last year’s team that reached the Sweet 16. Indiana has two returning All-Americans in Grace Berger and Mackenzie Holmes, but the team’s ceiling could ultimately swing on how well several newcomers adapt to a new situation.
IU made headlines in the spring by adding three transfers: forward Alyssa Geary (Providence), guard Sydney Parrish (Oregon), and guard Sara Scalia (Minnesota).
Scalia gives the Hoosiers something they didn’t previously have on the roster: an electric 3-point shooter. She almost single-handedly beat IU at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in February with seven 3-pointers.
Berger hasn’t forgotten that night.
“Every time I see her in an IU uniform it is a little weird that that’s the same Sara that torched us against Minnesota,” Berger said at IU’s media day. “It’s weird but definitely, I love it. I love seeing her an Indiana uniform. I think she’s going to do really well.”
3-point shooting wasn’t IU’s strength last year, but it wasn’t a weakness. Indiana, as a team, shot just under 33 percent from beyond the arc, ranking 75th in the country. But the Hoosiers attempted just 15 threes per game — that was No. 303 in the country. Indiana’s formula was typically playing through the post, Berger in the mid-range or driving, and strong defense.
Indiana just didn’t have a player capable of helping the team as a high-volume 3-point shooter. Scalia, who ranked in the top 25 in the country and top five in the Big Ten in 3-point percentage, is that type of player. She’ll certainly add more threes to IU’s overall shot selection, but IU is unlikely to become a heavy 3-point shooting team.
But Moren has been pleased with some other things Scalia could add.
“I’m not sure it surprised us, but inside of practice, she’s been a great facilitator,” Moren said. “One of the things that we were curious about was how interested she would be in defending, because that’s such a huge part of who we are. And she’s been (a) very interested defender for us — probably better than what we thought she would be, which is good.”
Geary was the first of the trio to commit to IU from the transfer portal — the same day as IU’s first-round NCAA Tournament victory last year.
She battled a torn labrum in her final season at Providence, opting to wear a brace, push through the injury, and delay surgery until the offseason. It limited her game, built on physicality inside. She can shoot from outside, and has some ball-handling ability too.
Her numbers from last season at Providence were meager — 9.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, two assists, and 1.1 blocks per game. All figures were lower than they were in her junior year. But now, fully recovered from the injury, she’s expecting a bounce-back with IU.
Indiana has a vacancy at forward after Aleksa Gulbe graduated, and Geary will certainly help fill that void.
Parrish was named the 2020 Indiana Miss Basketball for her standout senior season at Hamilton Southeastern. She played two seasons out in Oregon, but opted to come play closer to home going forward.
That was a big deal for Parrish.
“It means everything, coming back home. I wasn’t expecting to come back home, so being here has just been great,” Parrish said. “I see my parents all the time now. My grandparents are just down the road. I get to see friends and family a lot. And just representing the state of Indiana — I loved playing high school basketball in Indiana, so now I can say I get to play college basketball here.”
Parrish will step in and help Indiana at guard, after the Hoosiers lost Ali Patberg and Nicole Cardaño-Hillary. She shot 38.5 percent from the field last year, and 35.4 percent from 3-point range. Parrish doesn’t quite reach Scalia’s volume of 3-point tries, but she still made and attempted more threes than everyone on IU’s roster last year. It’s certainly a key area she’ll help in.
It’ll be an adjustment for Parrish transitioning from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten, as it will for Geary from the Big East. She noticed some difference quickly as practices began for this season.
“Big Ten is very fast, lots of shooters, play very fast; the Pac-12, they’re really tall. So I think it’s a big difference with my position,” Parrish said. “It’ll be an adjustment, but I think I’m getting used to in practice and just seeing how my teammates work through it.”
IU was a team that rarely went very far down the bench last season. The Hoosiers often played, mostly, six-deep, with its starting five and Chloe Moore-McNeil off the bench the only players seeing significant minutes. But now, with those three transfers, and intriguing Israeli freshman guard Yarden Garzon, Indiana has much more depth to work with this season.
“I think we have some interesting pieces. I think we have a lot of really good talent,” Moren said. “I do think that there is going to be a moment where you’ll probably see us use our depth more than we did a year ago. We’re excited about that. We’ve always been a program that’s wanted to be able to have a lot of pieces, different kind of pieces on the floor. Last year didn’t lend itself to that.”
It will take some time for this IU team to fully hit its stride. Much of the team’s practices thus far have been devoted to just getting everyone truly on the same page, making sure everyone is comfortable playing with everyone else, and that everyone knows the system they will be running.
With so much roster turnover, that takes a lot of time. It also takes a while for the coaching staff to go through all the possible lineup combinations they have at their disposal.
That’s not to say the Hoosiers will struggle out of the gate — rather, they could hit another gear by conference play once they’re fully acclimated to playing with each other.
And if that can happen, this IU team could be extremely dangerous this season.
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