Julia Schachinger/Daily. Buy this photo.

Emily Kiser and Amy Dilk are old friends. Both are now juniors on the Michigan Women’s basketball team, but they once played together on the same AAU team — the Indiana Flight Thunder.

During their time at Michigan, it’s a combo we haven’t seen much of. Dilk, the starting point guard for the Wolverines, started all 32 games last year and averaged 34.7 minutes per game. For Kiser, the story is a little different. She appeared in all but three games last season, but only averaged 8.5 minutes per game off the bench. 

But this season, the duo could prove to be vital for the Wolverines. From the beginning of their AAU career in high school, the pair has had chemistry, complementing each other’s strengths.

“Amy has such a good feel for the game,” Flight Thunder coach Tony Marlin said. “And Emily has a good feel for the game in a different position. There were so many times that we saw passes go from Amy to Emily and Emily scoring, or Amy to Emily back to Amy back into Emily after she repositioned.”

It’s these types of sequences that Michigan will need this season. Offensive production is something the Wolverines struggled with at points last season, relying heavily on then-sophomore forward Naz Hillmon to produce in the paint. If Michigan can develop consistent scorers and connections in not only its starting lineup, but its first, second and third players off the bench, their offense becomes all the more potent. 

And that’s most likely where Kiser will be — the first, second, or third off the bench. The Wolverines are returning all of last year’s starting lineup and only lose one senior from last season. With so much competition for playing time, an established relationship with Dilk will only make it harder to keep Kiser out of the lineup.

While each shares a different role on the team, both in playing time and position, they both execute in their roles. 

“Amy had a real good feel for where Emily was going to be and putting her in a position to score,” Marlin said. “And, you know, Emily does a great job of finishing around the rim. She’s also developed a good outside shot early on.”

Their relationship will not only be crucial on the court this year, but off it as well. Both are experienced players who’ve spent a lot of time with the program. Now as upperclassmen, they’re expected to lead.

“Emily Kiser really led by example,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said after their first practice on Oct. 14. “I think it was great to see that experience, but we do have a young team after that.”

And Kiser has been helping with the younger players as well.

“Both Emily and Naz have been doing a really great job of just teaching me different things,” freshman wing Elise Stuck said. “I came in as more of a guard and have switched to the ‘4’ position, and they have been very helpful in explaining drills or concepts.”

For Dilk, the point guard position and starting spot have placed her in a more automatic leadership role. But it’s a role she’s nonetheless taken in stride. 

“As a junior, it’s definitely something that I’ve been trying to work on and take upon myself,” Dilk said. “To kind of grow myself into the leader that I want to be for the underclassmen, that for the people that I had above me.”

Synergy between players on and off the court will only benefit Michigan this year. With a young team and a robust depth chart, the Wolverines will rely on Dilk and Kiser’s relationship, as the duo looks to rekindle their AAU heyday. 

“They’ve got great chemistry,” Marlin said. “They’ve had it for years.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.

For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.