It’s never easy for a freshman to fill a vacant starting role. It’s even harder when that freshman is replacing a program’s all-time leading scorer.
That was the case for sophomore guard Amy Dilk last season. Katelynn Flaherty, the Michigan women’s basketball program’s most decorated player, graduated the year prior to Dilk’s arrival, leaving a huge hole in the Wolverines’ roster. Dilk came in as Michigan’s top recruit, a five-star ranked No. 40 in the nation, with the weight of filling an important role on the team.
While a highly-touted freshman like herself could let the pressure to replace Flaherty affect her play, Dilk did what was asked of her and got acclimated to the college game.
“I think the biggest challenge for her last year was that she didn’t realize that you have to actually play hard on every possession,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “I think when you’re in high school and you’re such an elite player … you can take possessions off where you don’t even realize that you’re taking possessions off.”
With a full season under her belt, Dilk evaluated her weaker aspects and improved them. One area in particular is taking care of the ball. Dilk turned the ball over 3.4 times per game last season, higher than both she and Barnes Arico would like.
Additionally, Dilk looked to improve her shooting (39.4 percent last season) and scoring (7.2 points per game) abilities during the offseason. With three other players averaging over 10 points per game and two other established scorers averaging over seven, she was not asked to be one of the Wolverines’ main scoring threats last season. But after losing three of their top four scorers from last season, Dilk will be relied upon as a distributor and a scorer.
“I think those two things are primarily what I’ve focused on over the summer because I think that’s what I needed to improve to be the best that I can be,” Dilk said. “Taking the fundamentals and going back to the basics of making sure my free throws snap, my form is perfect, and tightening my ball handling skills so I don’t create those turnovers.
“We call it daily vitamins. It’s just things that we personally need to get better at that we do every day as an individual.”
Added Barnes Arico: “I think for her to take those next steps in her development … she’s gotta be a more consistent shooter. She’s gotta be willing to take those shots and knock down those shots, and she has worked hard on that in the offseason.”
Dilk’s teammates have praised her passing ability. She finished seventh in the Big Ten last season with 4.4 assists per game. Her knowledge of her teammates’ style was key to this.
“As a point guard, coach talks about it all the time, being able to make the right reads and just knowing the person also,” said junior forward Hailey Brown. “Building relationships on the court as well, I think she just did a really good job her freshman year.”
While Dilk has worked hard to improve her game, the most important factor that could lead to a breakout season is the increased confidence that comes with having played a year in the system.
“(She) knows her teammates, and knows what she has to do to get those wins, and she knows what she has to do to put her teammates in the best position,” said sophomore forward Naz Hillmon. “I think she’s going to look even better than last year, if you guys can even imagine what that looks like.”