When guard Veronica Hicks graduated last season, the Michigan women’s basketball team lost more than its leading scorer.
As the Wolverines’ lone senior, Hicks was a vocal leader on and off the court. She also led the team in total rebounds for the season.
“I don’t think necessarily one person can sit there and say, ‘I’m going to take Veronica Hicks’s spot’ because she did so much on the floor,” said senior guard Courtney Boylan at Michigan Media Day last week.
For her prolific performance last season, Hicks was named team MVP at the postseason banquet.
But the Wolverines have a returning group of players who hope to make up for any talent lost with Hicks.
“Veronica was a great player, but we have been practicing a lot without her,” said junior forward Rachel Scheffer. “We all just need to take it upon ourselves to replace her individually and rely on each other.”
Scheffer averaged 11 points per game, just a hair fewer than Hicks’s 11.2 average, and sophomore Jenny Ryan tallied 151 rebounds — just 13 fewer than Hicks. Scheffer and Ryan are two of four returning starters who will lead Michigan this season.
Joining them are junior forward Nya Jordan and senior guard/forward Carmen Reynolds. Jordan started the first 13 games but suffered a season-ending knee injury and Reynolds started all 30 games last season. As upperclassmen, both players will have leadership roles.
Along with the returning players, Michigan also welcomes four new freshmen. Two of them — guard Brenae Harris and forward Cyesha Goree — could have an immediate impact.
“With the freshmen coming in everyone has their areas to piece together with what we miss from losing Veronica,” said senior guard Jamillya Hardley. “I think if we work together and keep that team cohesiveness, we can definitely make up for what was lost.”
Goree is predominantly a post player, and Harris excels at guard. Both were top recruits who signed in November of last year.
“In my opinion, Cyesha Goree is going to be a really good player,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “If you need a tight end or some hands that’s going to catch it, throw it to Cyesha. What a phenomenal set of hands.”
After receiving the letters of intent, Borseth noted Harris’s versatility.
“She can get to the rim, distribute or knock down the arc shot,” Borseth said in November 2010 when Harris committed. “She’s probably a lot like a Veronica Hicks type of a player, and since Veronica will be graduating after this year, Brenae (Harris) will have some big shoes to fill, and we are glad she’ll be here to do so.”
As a guard, Harris will be able to study under the likes of Boylan, Ryan and Reynolds.
Borseth runs a simple yet flexible offense that should allow the freshmen to catch on quickly. He utilizes the ball-screen on offense to give his players open shots, and by spreading the floor, he allows all five players to rebound.
“The great thing about coach Borseth’s system is he just allows you to play,” Boylan said. “He wants to put you in positions that will keep you spaced on the floor, but what’s great about it is there’s not really set plays, and he allows you to play the game that you’ve always played.”
With Hicks gone this year, the four returning starters will give the Wolverines a solid base.
“I think we’re a team — in every sense of the word — without a superstar, waiting for someone to emerge,” Borseth said.