- Todd Needle/Daily
By Alexa Dettelbach, Daily Sports Writer
Published July 17, 2013
Despite having graduated back in early May, the five seniors of the Michigan women’s basketball team can’t help but stay away from the arena they called home for the last four years.
More like this
Since the Wolverines’ season ended in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the five newest Michigan women’s basketball alumni are well on their way in the real world.
“As much as these kids have graduated, we will forever be their families, so they definitely come back as much as possible and they love Michigan and they love Ann Arbor,” said Michigan Barnes Arico. “This is kind of like home for them, so they don’t want to leave.”
But not everyone comes back frequently.
While her time as a Wolverine is over, former center/forward Rachel Sheffer is changing her maize and blue basketball jersey in for a brown and gold volleyball one.
“Rachel Sheffer is probably the only one I haven’t seen that much of and I think that’s because she’s training,” Barnes Arico said. “She’s going to be playing volleyball this fall for Western Michigan, so she’s still staying in shape, the shape of a college athlete.”
Sheffer has a fifth year of eligibility and will attend graduate school at Western Michigan. NCAA rules allow athletes a fifth year of amateur status if they are pursuing a different sport.
Sheffer is not new to volleyball, having played in high school at Watervliet High School in Watervliet, Mich., where she was a two-time First Team All-State performer in 2007 and 2008. She also was a three-time First Team All-Conference honoree (2006-2008) and a three-time member of the All-Region team.
The other four former players, forwards Kate Thompson, Nya Jordan and Sam Arnold and guard Jenny Ryan, have taken different paths, but are no longer involved in college athletics.
“Kate Thompson is always popping her head in here,” Barnes Arico said. “She’s working our men’s camp right now (and) she looks skinnier then ever if that’s possible. I don’t think she’s picked up her weight since her career ended so she looks rather thin, but she finished her physics class, has graduated and has been studying when she’s not working camps or stopping by the office.
“She’s studying for her MCATS and she is going to do a year of research on campus next year and then probably go to medical school from there.”
Jordan is not ready to give up basketball just yet and is currently working on her game to be able to eventually play overseas.
“Nya Jordan is another one that I see very often. She’s still working out a ton, she’s trying to go play overseas so she’s been in the gym with our players, in the gym on her own (and) really continuing to work on her game. She’s always popping her head in here and there.”
Arnold, the sixth woman on Michigan’s strong 2012-2013 roster, has been in and out of Ann Arbor as well.
“Sam Arnold worked camp as well and it was so great to see her because she’s always doing extremely well,” Barnes Arico said. “She’s starting grad school next month in Loyola in Chicago, so in between that she’s back here working camps and spending some time in Chicago.
“She always has a smile on her face and it’s always great to see her, so she’ll be working our camps all summer and it’s great to have her around.”
Like her former teammates, former captain and team MVP Jenny Ryan’s future is still up in the air, but one thing is for certain — she wants to be around Ann Arbor.
“A big part of me wants to stay in Ann Arbor,” Ryan said back in April. “I love this place and I don’t want to leave anytime soon. If I stay in basketball it will be in a coaching position.”
Just as they don’t want to leave the team, the team doesn’t want them to leave either.
The five seniors — four of whom started — accounted for 84 percent of the Wolverines’ offense and led the team to a 22-11 season and a second straight NCAA tournament berth. To make matters even more challenging, two seniors expected to replace lost talent on this year’s team are center Val Driscoll and forward Kendra Seto — two players coming off of ACL injuries from last offseason and who played a combined total of zero minutes last season.
Every year, there are college coaches who have to adapt to losing their seniors to graduation and every year, those same coaches have to groom their juniors to take over those vacated leadership positions.
For the Michigan women’s basketball program, that adaptation process may take some more time.
“We miss them a tremendous amount at our workouts already,” Barnes Arico said. “We miss their energy, we miss their passion, we miss their voice and it’s going to be a transition year without them.”