Emily Kiser dribbles a basketball on the court during a game with a defender in front of her.
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On Wednesday evening, forward Emily Kiser announced via Instagram that she will utilize her year of COVID-19 eligibility and return to the Michigan women’s basketball team for the 2022-23 season.

Last season, Kiser found her spot in the starting lineup for the first time and was one of only two players to start every game for the Wolverines, alongside fellow-senior Danielle Rauch. Kiser averaged 9.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 31.2 minutes per game. Her breakout senior season earned her recognition on the All-Big Ten honorable mention team by the media as she quadrupled her scoring and rebounding production from her junior year.

Her return will be key to retaining rebounding production for a Michigan team that lost first-team All-American Naz Hillmon — who owns the Michigan basketball rebounding record — to the WNBA.

At 6-foot-3, Kiser is a force in the paint. Her 16 rebounds against then-No. 5 Indiana propelled Michigan to a program-best No. 4 ranking in February, and her four double-doubles throughout the year are a testament to her rebounding and scoring ability in the paint. Kiser’s 258 rebounds ranked sixth among Big Ten players.

“She’s worked extremely hard on her back-to-the-basket stuff. I think we saw that in the third quarter (against Akron) when (senior forward) Naz (Hillmon) came out of the game and Emily scored 10 straight points,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said on Dec. 5. “She’s just a kid who’s worked extremely hard in her career. So for her to be having her senior season the way she is, I’m really proud of her.”

Offensive rebounding offers opportunities for second-chance points and free throws, which Kiser frequently capitalized on throughout the season with 2.25 offensive rebounds per game.

Kiser’s excellent passing and court vision from the paint played a crucial role in opening up the outside for Michigan’s high-low offense. Her passing vision enables 3-point shooters like rising-senior Maddie Nolan and senior Leigha Brown to get open looks. She also is capable of scoring from the three point line herself, and when she did, it was most frequently from the top of the key.

Kiser often took on the responsibility of guarding the opposing team’s toughest post player, and her defensive presence was crucial for the Wolverines. Her 30 blocks and 23 steals throughout the course of the season were a statement to her hard work and hustle that often fails to translate to the stat sheet. Kiser won the team’s Heart and Hustle award for accumulating the most hustle plays during games.

“She’s such an incredible defender,” Barnes Arico said on Feb. 1. “She does so many great things for a team that doesn’t show up in the box score. I was happy for her presence back out there because she does so many intangible things to help our team be successful. She’s having a career year.”

Kiser often contributed by drawing charges in key moments — a stat in which she led the team — and her defensive presence in the paint was crucial for a Michigan team that ran all the way to the Elite Eight.

Kiser’s veteran leadership and defensive hustle will be crucial to a Michigan team that looks to build upon a program-best season in the upcoming year. With Kiser staying, Michigan looks to replicate last year’s success and work towards its first Big Ten Championship.