TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State coach Teri Moren believes the addition of five more newcomers to the program — in addition to the five who had already joined the program earlier this calendar year — will provide her coaching staff the athleticism and depth it needs to play a successful, up-tempo brand of basketball next season.
The ISU coaching staff announced Tuesday that five women will transfer into the program, meaning 15 players will be on scholarship and 11 eligibile to play at the beginning of the 2013-14 season. Two more — midseason transfers Stephanie Wittman and Chelsea Small — will become eligible in late December this year.
Two others — junior-to-be Jessica Valley and freshman post Mackenzi Reasor — will no longer be with the program. Moren said Valley, a high-energy rebounder and defender before suffering a second torn ACL last season, is looking at transfer options. She said Reasor, who never earned playing time as a freshman, might continue her career. Another player with the team last winter, Jasmine Harris, did not meet academic standards and is no longer with the program.
But back to the most recent acquisitions ushered in by recruiting coordinator John Marcum.
The leader of the group is a 5-foot-4 guard with a resume that could mean ISU sees a minimal drop-off after the graduation of Taylor Whitley. Bilquis (bil-KEES) Abdul-Qaadir is eligible to play right away because she is a graduate of the University of Memphis, where she averaged 10.4 points, 2.2 steals and 2.4 assists as a junior last season. After graduating with a 3.8 grade-point average, Abdul-Qaadir will be a graduate student at Indiana State with her sights on becoming a physician’s assistant.
The talented guard chose ISU over Hampton and Ohio State.
“Her work ethic, character and skill set are uncommon and I have no doubt she make an immediate impact in the Missouri Valley. Her biggest desire is to win a championship and we have no doubt that she helps us in that regard,” Marcum said.
Moren is eager to see what Abdul-Qaadir can do in her system.
“She’s going to have some big shoes to fill, losing Taylor, a three-year starter. She will certainly be the piece that will help,” Moren said, adding that she’ll be joined by four other players that could make the Sycamores one of the most athletic teams in the Missouri Valley Conference.
“We managed to find some really good wings and guards, some hybrid kids, that can play more than one position,” Moren added. “Our depth is exciting for me. We can finally pressand create a little more havoc. We finally have some athleticism and depth to be able to do that.”
Lashonda Littleton is a 6-foot forward who averaged 11.4 points and 7.6 rebounds for one of the top junior college teams in the nation. She and 5-10 guard Bobbi Beckwith will be two of four JUCO transfers looking to make an impact next season, joining already signed 6-0 forward Jasmine Grier and 5-1 point guard Ricquia Jones.
“Lashonda is a special young lady. Her character, work ethic and athleticism will help her to make an immediate impact,” Marcum said. “Lashonda is a forward who can stick the face-up jumper, stretch the defense in transition, is great on the glass and pick-and-pop situations. Lashonda is also a great student-athlete with a 3.0 GPA, comes from a great family and knows how to win.”
Beckwith is a 5-10 guard out of Iowa Western Community College and a native of Albion, Neb.
“Beckwith can stroke it, can shoot it, high basketball IQ. A lot like [Anna] Munn,” Moren said. “A blue-collar Nebraska kid. Parents were farmers, she understands the work ethic part. That’s something I’m always searching for in recruits.”
Joyea Marshall, a 6-0 wing, is the final addition. She’s a native of Wichita, Kan., and a transfer from UT Pan American.
The influx of talent gives Moren and her coaching staff the competitive practice environment they desire. And nine of the 10 newcomers have collegiate newcomers have extensive college experience. Six-foot-2 forward Rhagen Smith of Sullivan is the only high school recruit among the 10 new players.
And also, “we have flexibility,” Moren said. “Mainly, their athleticism is pretty unique to what we haven’t had in the past.”
The diversity of the entire roster is also intriguing for Moren, with players from varying backgrounds. Abdul-Qaadir has been featured in Sports Illustrated and had the opportunity to meet President Barack Obama after high school. She is reportedly the first NCAA women’s player to play with a headscarf and covered arms and legs in order to abide by her Muslim faith.
“I think one of the gifts of athletics, you can experience so many different things. That diversity we have on our team now is something very special. We’re all going to learn something from each other, we always do,” Moren said.
Everyone of the newcomers will be on campus next month for summer school except for Abdul-Qaadir, who will be putting the finishing touches on her degree at Memphis.
“One thing I thought last year, instrumental in our success was our chemistry,” Moren said. “The month of June is going to be about training and being together as much as possible.”