After the Michigan women’s basketball team won the WNIT in thrilling, triple-overtime fashion, it took head coach Kim Barnes Arico all of 24 hours to start thinking about how she would go about replacing Siera Thompson at point guard.
Thompson graduated as the Wolverines’ record-holder in games played, minutes, and free throw percentage. To boot, she was one of just two players in program history with 1,000 points, 500 assists and 400 rebounds. With senior Danielle Williams graduating as well, there wasn’t an immediate solution. Until one fell into Barnes Arico’s lap.
“Katelynn (Flaherty) and I sat down and she’s like, ‘Coach, I want to be a point guard,’” Barnes Arico said at her Media Day press conference.
Flaherty — who will pass Diane Dietz as the program’s all-time leading scorer this season barring injury — has always played the ‘2’, where she averaged just under three assists per game last season. It’s understandable, then, that Barnes Arico had her reservations about the idea.
“‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. We still need to figure out a way for you to get 15 to 20 shots a game,’” Barnes Arico said in response. “‘Can we do that at the point guard position?’
“And that’s something that we spent a lot of time in the offseason talking about, developing, figuring out, ‘Do we have to run different sets? Do we have to run sets for our point guard now, where we’ve ran a lot of sets for the person off the ball?’”
The answers to those questions are still unclear. According to Barnes Arico, Michigan will likely spend its non-conference schedule trying to figure them out. However, after Flaherty spent the offseason refining her game to run point, it’s clear she’ll get a chance to do so.
“(Flaherty) went home for a period of time, and she has come back and she can do it,” Barnes Arico said. “She sees the floor, she is probably our best post passer right now. The game, and I think it’s her experience too, has really slowed down.”
Having never guarded point guards, Flaherty is unlikely start now. One solution may be to let Flaherty handle the ball on offense and have freshman Deja Church handle the opposing team’s point guard on defense. Though Flaherty may start at point with junior Nicole Munger next to her in the backcourt — Michigan has yet to announce its starting lineup — it seems that the senior will share the floor with the freshman more often than not.
As for Church, Barnes Arico described the Southfield, Mich., native as “a strong, physical guard,” on Friday morning, saying “she looks like a college-ready player at this point.”
By all accounts, Church will spend most of her time on the court guarding point guards and she’ll do it well.
“She can be one of the best defenders in our league,” Barnes Arico said on Media Day. “Now she has a lot to learn, but she has the ability to do that.”
Added Munger: “Coming in defensively, she’s been great, one of our best-defending guards.”
The ultimate question of who runs the offense, however, is still murky.
“We’re both gonna take turns,” Church said on Media Day.
Or in other words: to be determined.