The 2012 edition of the Michigan’s women’s basketball team is small but fast, with an ability to score from all over the court. Here’s a breakdown of this season’s squad:
Coming into the fall the starting point guard position was the most uncertain for the Wolverines. Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico continuously says it’s “point guard by committee” for her team, splitting minutes between senior Jenny Ryan, sophomore Brenae Harris and freshman Madison Ristovski.
In the first game of the season against Detroit, Harris started at point guard with Ristovski coming off the bench. Ryan is a four-year starter at the shooting guard position and looks to be the Wolverines’ most valuable offensive asset.
“What I’m trying to do is put people in their best positions to be successful,” Barnes Arico said. “Brenae and Madison are both young kids who haven’t experienced the game at the highest level.
“I don’t know if I want to throw them into the fire so to speak, but we have Jenny (who) is more experienced, so we are giving (Harris and Ristovski) an opportunity to play the position and kind of get everything comfortable.”
With the point guard position still in rotation between Harris and Ristovski, the Wolverines have relied on Ryan to help carry the load.
“I was really impressed when I was looking over the stats last year and saw Jenny Ryan’s assist to turnover ratio and she didn’t run the point,” Barnes Arico said. “She always (has) a way to get everyone involved.”
After the three strong guards, Michigan also has sophomore Aquashia Anderson and injured freshman Symone Denham on the bench.
The Wolverines have been plagued by injuries at the forward position, but senior Kate Thompson leads the group of healthy players. In her first two games as a starter, she’s second on the team in scoring with 16 points per game while going 8-for-14 beyond the arc. Thompson’s ability to hit the outside shot has made her an irreplaceable scorer to the offense.
“Kate Thompson is one of our best shooters,” Barnes Arico said. “She is (also) really aggressive on the glass. I think because of that she (has) brought a dimension to our team that has stood out, and that is rebounding.”
Michigan also looks to sophomore starter Nicole Elmblad. Despite playing guard in high school, Barnes Arico has played Elmblad at the small forward position because of her rebounding ability and because of the team’s injuries. Though she’s only 5-foot-11, Elmblad is second on the team in rebounds with six per game.
After Elmblad, the Wolverines have seniors Sam Arnold and Nya Jordan off the bench.
“Sam is one of our biggest post presence,” Barnes Arico said. “(And) Nya Jordan is probably one of our most athletic kids. She is a tremendous rebounder.”
The forward position is rounded off with sophomore Cyesha Goree and freshman Rebecca Lyttle, both of whom tore their ACLs over the summer. Freshman Kelsey Mitchell also tore her ACL and will not return this season.
Senior Rachel Sheffer leads this group with her imposing 6-foot-1 presence. Sheffer — last season’s leading scorer — is Michigan’s best offensive threat.
“I have to get (Rachel) touches when she’s face up,” Barnes Arico said. “I’m not going to go against the strengths of our team. That’s why in the beginning of (our first) game we ran a lot of stuff for Rachel to face up and I think she’ll be a mismatch for some of the slower, bigger kids.
“She is a difference maker, (and) when the going (gets) tough, she is ready.”
After having just two double-doubles all of last season, Sheffer already has one through two games.
Behind Sheffer, though, the Wolverines are thin at center. Junior Val Driscoll tore her ACL over the summer and redshirt junior Kendra Seto was ruled out for the season last week for the same ACL injury.