For her first three years in the Michigan women’s basketball program, now-graduate forward Emily Kiser didn’t start a game. During her junior year, she averaged just 2.4 points per game. That all changed her senior year when she broke out as a key contributor, starting all 32 games as an integral part of the frontcourt.
Kiser is just one example in the 25th-ranked Wolverines’ long legacy of players having a breakout senior season. Alongside Kiser, guard Danielle Rauch also found success as a senior last year. Kiser and Rauch joined the ranks of former Michigan players like Akienreh Johnson and Kayla Robbins who patiently waited for their moments, biding their time before shining in their senior year.
This season, especially with the absence of an obvious point guard, there’s one player showing strong potential to continue this trend:
A four-star recruit out of high school, the senior guard hasn’t yet found the success on the court that she’s been hoping to deliver. Sidor played more during her freshman year than the following two seasons, but she has impressed her team this offseason with her work ethic, dedication and leadership.
“Every year there is someone that steps up and someone that’s been a little bit under the radar and has a breakout season,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said on Oct. 12 at Big Ten Media Days. “And for us this year, that might be Michelle Sidor. She’s waited her turn, she’s worked incredibly hard, she’s believed in the vision and belief in everyone in front of her and now her time has come.”
Despite leaving high school as the second-highest all-time scorer in New Jersey women’s basketball history, Sidor’s transition to college wasn’t as smooth as the team had hoped. Playing behind stronger players, the Wolverines struggled to place her in a lineup. But over the years, Sidor has worked on her confidence and mindset, setting her up to step into a role she believes she can fill.
“I’ve definitely learned a lot throughout my four years and I’d say everything is kind of clicking now,” Sidor said on Oct. 25 at Michigan Media Day. “I see an opportunity at the point guard spot so I’ve really just been focusing in on where people need to be positioned when we run plays.”
Although Sidor has yet to make a significant impact on the court, it’s another story from the sidelines.
Throughout her three years in Ann Arbor, Sidor has been igniting Michigan — and the game — from the sidelines with her lively celebrations. In key moments, when the Wolverines have needed a momentum boost, Sidor has found a way to provide it from the sidelines.
When asked about those celebrations, Sidor’s response was straightforward.
“That’s the fire within me,” Sidor said. “I’m pretty emotional when I play or like for my teammates, I also think that’s part of our culture. We’re a unit and it doesn’t matter if you’re at the end of the bench or a starter, you gotta be ready, you gotta be there for your teammates. … Even if I wasn’t playing, just to show the energy for my teammates to fire them up.”
After three years of firing up her team from the bench, this could be the year that Sidor brings that inferno to the court. She’s been working hard during the offseason, working to improve her craft and realize her vision.
“One of the greatest things in this program … is that our players have shown the ability to buy into the process of improvement and reap the benefits their senior season,” Barnes Arico said. “… There’s been plenty of examples of kids that have just worked their butt off and have had incredible senior seasons, and I think Michelle is dying for that opportunity and really putting herself into a position to seize that.”
On top of working to earn her place as a regular contributor on the floor, Sidor knows that being a senior means she needs to impact her team with her voice, too. With three full years at Michigan under her belt, Sidor is sharing what she’s learned with her younger teammates, using her experience to help guide the Wolverines while still working to earn more minutes herself.
“She’s been doing amazing in practice,” Kiser said. “Her voice on the court is insane, and we need that in the guard position.”
Throughout her first three years at Michigan, Sidor has shown flashes of promise. She’s been a spark on the bench, fueling the Wolverines’ celebrations and lighting a fire under her team.
This year, in her senior season, she’s hoping to erupt onto the court.