Over the past year, Michigan women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico and her staff searched near and far for some of the best women’s basketball talent in the United States. In their quest, the coaching staff may have compiled the best recruiting class in program history.
The Wolverines lost three impact seniors last season in forward Cyesha Goree, guard Shannon Smith and forward Nicole Elmblad, but this year’s freshman class is prepared, and is expected to make an impact right away.
Michigan originally had commitments from four players in the espnW 100 recruiting rankings — center Hallie Thome (No. 64) and guards Nicole Munger (No. 68), Naomi Davenport (No. 76) and Lauren “Boogie” Brozoski (No. 85). Those recruits, along with 3-star forward Sam Trammel, gave the Wolverines the 14th-best recruiting class in the nation according to ESPN. Davenport, however, didn’t follow through on her November commitment, and is now attending Trinity Valley Community College in Texas.
Barnes Arico attributes the success in recruiting to the opportunities the University presents academically, the work of her assistant coaches to scour the country for talent and the identity of the program. And thanks to those attributes, even without Davenport, the rest of the freshmen bring loads of potential for Barnes Arico to be excited about.
“I really think (this class can be special),” Barnes Arico said. “They were a top recruiting class in the country. They’re a special group of kids. Freshman year is going to be tough. Some are going to be backing up, some are more experienced kids, so they’ll be getting the minutes they’ll get later in their career.”
Barnes Arico knows that this group of freshmen is unique and ready to handle the pressure of Division I competition. Compared to last year’s freshman class, which Barnes Arico said struggled at times in the first few weeks of practice, this year’s class is in shape and has bought into the Michigan philosophy of striving to be the hardest-working team in America. The rest of the team has begun to take notice as well.
“I love our freshman class,” said senior guard Madison Ristovski. “They’re super talented and bring a lot of energy to practice, and they’re always willing to learn and ask us questions. They really do want to be the best, and as the season goes on, I think that they’re all in for the team, whether they get minutes or not.”
Added sophomore guard Katelynn Flaherty: “They don’t really act like freshmen — they’re always willing to compete and ready to go.”
Barnes Arico has already praised her quartet of newbies. She touts Brozoski’s (2015 Gatorade State Player of the Year in New York) quickness and ability to handle the ball at the point guard position, commends Munger’s toughness, notes Trammel’s strength inside and leaves practice saying, ‘Oh, my goodness’ after seeing the 6-foot-5 Thome (the Gatorade State Player of the Year in Ohio) play. Brozoski and Thome may be the two who earn the most minutes out of the four freshmen.
Barnes Arico’s feelings about Thome’s ability and the whole freshman class are a combination of excitement and reservation. But she knows that it is only their first year, and that she can’t think too far ahead, so she is focused on the present with the hope for the future in sight. Barnes Arico says she can get a pit in her stomach thinking about the possibilities, but she is looking forward to developing her players to ensure they meet or exceed expectations.
“They’re a special group,” Barnes Arico said. “By the time they’re juniors and seniors, I think they’ll do something special at Michigan for sure.”