It is the conventional wisdom. When a program loses not one but two of its all-time great players to graduation, it is time to think about rebuilding rather than reloading. Just how important were Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill to the Indiana University women’s basketball program? Take a look at these career profiles published on Twitter by the team:
That is legendary, IU Hall of Fame stuff. But as great as the duo was for the program, it would be a shame if their legend started and stopped with their actual playing careers. Both players came to IU when it was somewhat of a fledgling program. Curt Miller was just getting it off the ground. Then, when he suddenly resigned in the summer of 2014, it was left to new head coach Teri Moren, along with Buss and Cahill, to pick up the pieces.
Of course we all know by now what they accomplished. Beyond the individual achievements, Indiana reached the post-season three straight years including the 2016 NCAA tournament and the 2018 WNIT title. You’d like to think that this was the start of something bigger. The start of a program becoming a consistent winner again, like it was upon its founding decades ago.
Now it is up to Moren to once again deal with sudden change. This time the change is anticipated. But it will be no less dramatic, as the duo that helped her orchestrate this surge moves on to other, perhaps greener, pastures.
Despite the senior losses, the good news is that three of Indiana’s five starters will return for the 2018-19 season.
Kym Royster will be back for her senior year. The 6-2 forward was asked to do a lot more this year, and she came through. She averaged 16 more minutes, 6 more points, and 3.4 more rebounds vs. her sophomore year. More will be asked again in 2018-19.
Jaelynn Penn was a Top 50 recruit, and the freshman performed as advertised. Penn was a starter from day one and played a big role throughout the season. There was no freshman fatigue for the 5-10 guard either. She got stronger, as she averaged 13.8 points and 5.7 rebounds during the WNIT. Both of those marks were improvements over her regular season averages. Next year Penn will likely be a major focus of the offense.
Bendu Yeaney was another freshman starter that seemed to get stronger as the season wore on. The 5-10 guard averaged 11.7 points per game over the last 10 and shot the ball much better as the season wore on. She’ll be asked to do a little bit of everything next year, including playing the role of defensive stopper.
The Hoosiers will also have several role players from this year’s team that will be asked to do more in 2018-19. Keyanna Warthen and Linsey Marchese both played key roles off the bench this year and will be looked to for likely larger roles in the upcoming season. Alexis Johnson is another player that will likely see increased minutes in an effort to fill the void left by Cahill.
While it is a lot to ask, the Hoosiers have two highly regarded transfers that play Buss and Cahill’s positions and will be eligible to play in 2018-19. Both will have two years of eligibility remaining.
Ali Patberg is a name that may be familiar to those in the Hoosier state. The 5-10 point guard and Notre Dame transfer sat out this past season after spending two years with the Irish. Patberg attended Columbus North High School in Indiana and averaged 25.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 3.1 steals per game with a .536 field-goal percentage in her senior year there. That performance was good enough to earn her Indiana Miss Basketball honors and a spot on the 2015 McDonald’s All-American team.
Brenna Wise is another transfer that is expected to have a big impact on next year’s team. Wise sat out this year after spending two seasons at Pittsburgh, where she led the Panthers in both points and rebounds each season. The 6-0 forward averaged 14.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while earning All-Academic ACC honors during her sophomore year. In high school Wise was rated the 13th best small forward for the class of 2015 by ESPN.
Indiana will also have talent in its 2018 recruiting class coming in for next season as well:
- Grace Berger is a 5-star, ESPN 100, 5-11 guard out of Louisville that can do a little of everything and adds valuable length at the guard position.
- Chanel Wilson is a 3-star 5-6 point guard out of Georgia that could provide a nice change of pace with her quickness.
- Aleksa Gulbe is coming to IU from Europe. At 6-foot-3, she will add much needed size. She led the U19 Latvian League to a championship where she was named Most Valuable Player as she scored 32 points and 12 rebounds in the championship game.
EARLY 2018-19 THOUGHTS
Replacing Buss and Cahill won’t be easy, but the Hoosiers are in the fortunate position of having Patberg and Wise ready to go, and already with a year in Moren’s system under their belts. If the pair can step-in and play leading roles, then there is no reason to expect a drop-off when coupled with the anticipated growth of Royster, Penn, Yeaney and the supporting cast.
Indiana seems destined to be a guard oriented team that will likely play three or even four guard lineups at times given its depth at that position. That is a formula that could work well since most of the guards will have length and can also rebound effectively.
One thing that would certainly help would be to get off to a stronger start in conference play. The Hoosiers struggled out of the Big Ten gate in each of the last three years, and that slow start is likely what kept them out of the NCAA tournament the last two seasons.
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Main photo credit – Zach Spicer, The Tribune