Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Louisville women's basketball -- A follow up on the freshmen...TUESDAY CARDINAL COUPLE
HOW IS THE LARGEST FRESHMAN CLASS IN THE WALZ ERA DOING?
Six true freshmen joined the UofL women's basketball roster this season, making it the largest freshman class in the Jeff Walz era at UofL. This was a subject of discussion the other night...an esteemed colleague of mine thought the 2009-10 class had six freshmen. He was close. Walz brought in five that year. My colleague was sure it was six. Here is who he named off. See if you can pick out the one that wasn't a freshman in that class. Answer at the end of today's article.
Shelby Harper Nikki Burton
Tia Gibbs Asia Taylor
Rachel Story Ashley Rainey
As good as that class turned out...all six had success, even if it was ultimately at different schools for three...this 2016-17 class has the potential to be even better. Let's see how they are doing.
Kylee Shook. The 6'4" forward out of Mesa Ridge, CO...(And some will debate the height listing...claiming she is at least 6'5"...maybe taller) has given Louisville strong minutes at the "4" or stretch forward spot. She's been called on to play the "5" or center at times...but stretch forward is where she'll serve this squad best. Shook has played in 20 of the 22 games for a total of 225 minutes...third highest of the freshmen...for an average of 11.3 a contest...also third best. Her field goal % is .518 -- second best for the freshmen. She's 8-21 from three point range...those eight makes second best and she has 61 rebounds, which is tied for tops for the freshmen.
She poses a dilemma for the opponents. Very capable of scoring either inside or out...how do you defend her? Leave her alone outside and she'll make you pay. Defensively, she needs to be a bit more aggressive...but with 21 blocks (second-highest) front-line opponents think twice when going up inside when she's on the court. Her length poses problems for foes in the passing lanes and she runs the court well for a "big". You can team her up with about anyone inside and she performs well. So far...we're impressed with her skills and feel that we'll see continued greatness as her career progresses.
Ciera Johnson. Also listed at 6'4", this Duncanville, TX All-American has proven to be a valuable addition at the "5" for the Cards. Put into a starting role at the beginning of the year with Cortnee Walton's elbow injury, she held her own in the early competition and has continued to give the Cards quality minutes in a reserve role.
Johnson has seen action in all 22 of the Cardinal's games and has logged 264 minutes...second best for the frosh...for 12.0 per contest. Her field goal shooting is 41-82 (50%) and she has 55 rebounds...good for third highest among the freshman. She is a student of the game and knows it quite well for a first-year. Still a bit slow on defensive assignments, she does use her size and strength to command position in the offensive sets and has shown the ability to go to the board strongly. We'd like to see the free throw accuracy improve (20-35 .571) Opponents have had trouble with her strength underneath and she has the most blocks (23) of the freshmen. So far...we like how she has performed in the Walz system and can only see better things down the road for her.
Jazmine Jones. The Tallahassee terror has made quite an impact her in first season at the "Ville". Blessed with one of the smoothest mid-range jumper we've seen in awhile, extremely quick and athletic...Jones has been getting "first off the bench" assignments for Louisville and usually provides a spark when she does enter a contest. She's appeared in all 22 contests and put in 315 minutes (14.3 per game) which is tops for the freshmen. She is first in assists (23) steals (15) and tied for first in rebounding with 61. Her shooting (40-88) is at 45% and free throws (16-26) register in at 62%.
Jones is an exciting, dynamic and powerful addition to this squad. She provides valuable minutes at the "3" despite not having that great of a three-point proficiency (0-2 for the season) and can easily go to the "2" or even "4" if needed. Quickness and athleticism are two good descriptions for her. Prone to freshmen mistakes at times...sometimes she needs to adjust to the pace of the game...but we've heard people compare her to a young Angel McCoughtry. It will be up to her to develop the leadership skills, ability to take-over a game and strong all-over-the-court domination and three-point ability Angel had as her career progressed...but she has the talent, motivation and love for the game to become one of the best at Louisville. All it takes is the execution, hard work and dedication to get better and better. We look forward to "hearing the Jazz" the rest of this season and for a long, long time in the KFC YUM! Center.
Sydney Zambrotta. Syd is a shooter. It's what she does best and it's the reason she is here. Especially from the three-point range. Out of Christ The King high school in New York, she has played in 18 of the 22 contest this year...for 124 minutes (6.9 a game). She's 18-42 from the floor this year and of those attempts...13-34 from beyond the arc. She also has the best free throw percentage on the squad (7-8 .875).
Can she become a Becky Burke or Brandie Raddie type specialist for the Cards...being brought into games to do the outside bombing effectively? She's already shown she can be a force from the deep...five 3's connected against WKU and two other games where she's made two or better. Along with Asia, Mariya and Kylee...she's the outside threat and her playing time could increase as she gets more and more accustom to the pace of D1 basketball and her defensive skills improve. We hope she'll continue to work hard and continue to develop all aspects of her game...but perfection at trifecta distance when called upon is what the squad needs from her and is how she'll continue to help this squad.
There's a certain pride in knowing you're the "gunslinger" on the squad and that role could be hers if she is willing to work for it.
Bionca Dunham. The 6'2" Philly flash (once again...there is debate if 6'2" is correct...she seems taller) comes to the Cards as the least experienced baller...she didn't start playing serious, competitive hoops until her sophomore year in high school...but one with perhaps the most upside. Entered in 16 games this year...she leads Louisville with a .621 shooting average (18-29) and has seen 95 minutes on the court.
Offensively, we see the ability and potential. Going strong to the boards in the paint certainly isn't a problem for her. Defensively, there is still a lot of work to be accomplished...but that really isn't that uncommon for someone who has been playing as short of a time as she has. With time, experience, hard work and learning the D1 pace and mechanics...we think she can become a very valuable presence inside for the Cards. She reminds us of Asia Taylor in so many ways...Asia had a better basketball knowledge and talent when she got to Louisville...but Dunham has shown she can produce inside and Monique Reid and "A-Tayy" made nice careers out of that very same skill set. She may be the most gifted athletically of the freshmen...turning that into productivity and overall court-awareness and performance is the challenge that we hope she continues to pursue with abandon and embrace with a work-hard ethic.
Jessica Laemmle. Everyone's favorite "attack Yorkie" at 5'2"...she walked on the Louisville squad after a very successful career at Louisville Mercy. Fulfilling a lifelong dream to be a Louisville Cardinal, she's probably never going to be the Cards starting point-guard...but is the perfect candidate to lead the second squad on the court. Above average ball-handling skills, excellent court awareness and skilled at being the on-court leader...Laemmle is the type of hustle and drive player every team needs on a squad.
Appearing in 14 games for the Cards, she's seen 79 minutes and provided eight rebounds, six assists and four steals in her court time. She fully understands her role on this deep and talented squad and works as hard as any player on the roster. A crowd favorite when she hits the floor, Laemmle is one of those girls you love to see on the roster and gives it her all when called upon.
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We're not going to rank the freshmen on who is best, most effective or valuable to the team. You probably have your own ideas in those categories and feel free to share them in the comments section if you wish.
We will point out that they've been an integral part of Louisville's successes this season and given Coach Walz a multitude of options in game situations. Continued success and improvements are essential from them if the Cards are going to "March" to the Final Four. We feel confident that they'll respond successfully.
( Answer to the question at the top of today's article: If you picked TIA GIBBS, you are correct. Gibbs started her career at Vandy and joined the Cards her sophomore season. )