News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Indiana State University

October 3, 2013

Newcomers add depth, excitement to ISU women's basketball

TERRE HAUTE — After three days of practice, the optimism — just as it should be with four starters returning to the mix for Indiana State’s women’s basketball team — is a powerful mix of vitality and curiousity.

With 10 new faces joining seven returnees, coach Teri Moren has a lively group of 17 that creates a practice atmosphere that has been missing in recent seasons.

Among the five eager newcomers eligible to participate when ISU opens its season Nov. 9 in Hulman Center against South Alabama will be senior point guard Bilquis Abdul-Qaadir, who started for three years at the University of Memphis.

Abdul-Qaadir averaged 10.6 points, 2.4 steals and 2.5 assists as a junior in 2012-13; as a graduate student transfer, she’s eligible to play right away.

“I’m just really grateful to even have a chance to play at a four-year school,” the 5-foot-4 guard said following Wednesday’s practice. “For a staff to give me a chance to play my last year, only one year, is really special to me.”

Moren is thrilled to add such a veteran presence to pair with senior guard Anna Munn, who had a career-best 14.5 scoring average last season.

“Quisy [pronounced Kee-see] has helped [Munn]. She’s that other voice of maturity that has been through the rigors of college athletics. They’re seniors and have gone through the practices, the preseason, the grind of a long season. I’m really happy that those two kids are going to be leading this team this year,” Moren said.

With Racheal Mahan (13 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game) looking to build off a breakout season and Marina Laramie returning after a big freshman year, ISU has the potential to have the strongest post duo in the MVC.

Kasey Johnson and Travecia Franklin spent part of their respective freshman and sophomore seasons as starters as well.

But it’s the added depth that ISU will have with junior college transfers like Jasmine Grier, Bobbi Beckwith and Lashonda Littlejohn, along with true freshman Rhagen Smith, that could make for a complete roster.

“We have a really deep bench, we’re athletic and I feel like we can do something really special in the MVC,” Abdul-Qaadir said.

Munn sees ISU building a step farther than last year’s WNIT berth.

“That’s our goal, to get to the NCAA Tournament. With a deep bench, the possibilities are endless,” Munn said. “We brought in so much more athleticism and grit with these girls. They’re going to benefit us offensively and defensively.”

Getting newcomers up to speed in the sytem might not take as long as it would have in the past. An NCAA rule change allowed the ISU coaching staff more time with the team in June.

“The month of June was really good to us. Seventeen of them were here for summer school,” Moren said. “Only taking two classes, training with our training staff. The rule change … really benefited us. Our kids were able to meet each other, hang out, go to movies, dinner and get to know each other. So once they returned in August, it wasn’t like they didn’t know who they were and where they were from.”

Three of the 17 — Cierra Ceazer, Kelsey Dirks and Joyea Marshall — are Division I transfers that won’t suit up until 2014-15. Two of the 17 — mid-season transfers Chelsea Small and Stephanie Wittman — will be eligible after the first semester ends this season.

They were all able to play plenty of basketball with their new teammates as well as experience some team-building time.

“It was huge,” Munn said of the summer. “The couple days of boot camp we had … that brought us closer. It was a lot of mental toughness activities. Lots of sprints and stuff like that.”

The coaching staff, which has a newcomer as well in Rhet Wierzba, is excited about the possibilities with added depth.

Abdul-Qaadir said she and the other newcomers are quickly picking up the coaches’ instructions.

“It’s definitely different. Everything is opposite than it was at my last school so I’m just trying to get used to the terminology here, how they do things. But in the end, I feel like they took me in, they treated me like I’ve been here the last four years, I’m really grateful for that as well,” she said.

Abdul-Qaadir, who hit 22 3-pointers last season but said she prefers the mid-range game, is one of several players who could help take pressure off Munn by providing offensive punch. Munn made just 33.3 percent of her shots from the field and 29.3 percent of her 3-pointers last season.

“She’s a special point guard that is going to help us in that spot,” Moren said of Abdul-Qaadir. “She wants to play high-tempo and really wants to get out and go. She’s a scoring point guard, that’s always a good thing as well.”

Beckwith ranked fifth among all junior college players in the nation last season with a 3-point shooting percentage of 46.2 and 11th in 3-pointers made with 74 in 30 games. An athletic 6-0 forward, Grier also shows a good shooting touch from the outside.

“Who it will benefit the most will be a kid like Anna Munn, who had to take a lot of shots last year, some of them probably ill-advised or bad ones but just because she needed to, had to. We’ve been able to give her some help outside,” Moren said.

Abdul-Qaadir looks forward to helping the Sycamores improve offensively.

“I like the mid-range. I can handle the ball pretty well. Hopefully I’m here to take care of the ball, get it to the open players and score when I need to,” she said.


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