TERRE HAUTE —
The Indiana State women’s basketball team may have lost more than half its points with the graduation of Brittany Schoen, Deja Mattox and Shannon Thomas.
But Indiana State’s lone senior, Taylor Whitley, has proven to be one of the top playmakers in the conference when healthy — and junior guard Anna Munn one of the top shooters in the Missouri Valley.
The Sycamores could go as far as that veteran backcourt duo can take them this season.
Whitley’s scrappy play and eagerness to dive after loose balls can be contagious. The Sycamores will see several players with some of those personality traits in common with Whitley.
They include freshmen Kasey Johnson and Marina Laramie, who started last week’s exhibition game.
“We’re going to have to play ugly, we’re going to win ugly at times with this group because of the youth,” coach Teri Moren said. “Some nights it’s going to be tough to find easy buckets. We’re going to have to work extremely hard, stay extremely organized on the offensive end. But you’re not going to find a group of kids that wants to be more successful and wants to get down and dirty and get on the floor. Whitley’s always kind of the leader in that.”
Munn was impressed by the freshmen’s first on-the-court performance, even after the duo totaled just six points.
“I think Kasey did a tremendous job on the ball on defense, hustling after rebounds, blocked shots. Marina, too, going on the offensive boards [and getting three]. Their heart really showed [Friday night]. They’re not afraid just because they’re freshmen. They show that in practice, and it’s paying off,” Munn said.
Munn is the Sycamores’ leader on the wing, but she has players like Johnson, sophomore Jessica Valley and Travecia Franklin that can give the Sycamores more depth, quickness and length on the wing than in recent seasons. Munn, a 5-foot-10 guard, averaged 10 points a game last season, shooting 38.1 percent from 3-point range.
But Munn was third on the team in field-goal attempts last season. The Indianapolis native took 22 shots against Bellarmine in the exhibition victory, and took a similar shot total in a scrimmage against Purdue.
She’s looking forward to emerging as the go-to player, but she sees Whitley becoming a stronger leader as well as one of the underclassman, Racheal Mahan, who looks like she could be a steady force on both ends in the post this season.
“It’s more of a mental thing, being in that leader spot. I kind of feel like it was that way last year too, just being a leader on and off the floor,” Munn said. “I think just because we’re upperclassmen, I think Racheal [Mahan] is amazing, she’s becoming a great leader. Anybody can step up and that’s what it’s about.”
Whitley likes what she sees from the Sycamores, as sophomores like Franklin, Valley and backup point guard Natasha Zurek are looking to be steady contributors off the bench.
“I’m used to it now. In the beginning, it was kind of different without all the seniors. This team is one of a kind and I love these girls, so I feel honored to be able to lead them,” Whitley said.
Moren is calling upon Whitley to be a true quarterback on the court.
“I definitely have to be more vocal than I was in the past,” Whitley said. “Coach Moren’s always harping on me to be vocal. Just giving the underclassmen any tips in practice or games. They don’t seem nervous at all to me, so that’s good. They’re all working hard. We need to just take it a day at a time, work hard every single day. We have to get in the gym and work on free throws, keep being positive, and good things will come from it.”