After advancing to the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament last year, the Michigan women’s basketball team returns a seasoned and experienced bunch.
Of course, the Wolverines will be without Katelynn Flaherty for the upcoming campaign. Flaherty scored 2,776 points in her career, the most ever in school history — including the men’s program — and 27th all-time in NCAA history. She was also one of just two women in NCAA history to hit over 400 3-pointers in her career (410) and she led the team in scoring last season with 22.9 points per game on 42.3-percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Simply put, Michigan has a lot of production to make up. However, coach Kim Barnes Arico recruited the 12th-best class in the nation (the highest-ranked class in program history), infusing exciting young players into a lineup that also features experienced veterans. While last year was the Katelynn Flaherty show, this team has more of a feel of an ensemble.
So, you may ask, who are the women that make up this year’s squad? The Daily breaks down Michigan’s roster for the upcoming season:
Looking to replace Flaherty’s presence, 5-star freshman Amy Dilk appears to be more than up to the task. Out of Carmel, Ind., Dilk has shown tremendous poise on the defensive side of the ball and possesses fantastic vision and a deadly stroke from deep. In high school, Dilk averaged 17.8 points and 6.7 assists per game and was named Indiana’s Gatorade Player of the Year and Miss Basketball.
Joining Dilk in the backcourt is sophomore shooting guard Deja Church, who has returned to her natural position after spending time as Michigan’s backup point guard last season. Church does a great job at getting to the basket and seems like a surefire bet to improve on a freshman campaign that saw her average 7.0 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.
Fellow sophomore Priscilla Smeenge should also be in line to see extended minutes, and she should continue to make an impact with her 3-point stroke after knocking down 40 percent of her attempts last season in limited action. Junior Akienrah Johnson also figures to make an impact, especially after she scored in double figures in three of Michigan’s final six games of the season to help clinch a tournament berth.
Rounding out the guards are freshmen Danielle Rauch and Ariel Young. Young is a 6-foot-1 guard from Tallahassee, Fla., where she helped her high school to a 22-2 record and the first Final Four appearance in school history. Rauch, while small at 5-foot-8, showed tenacity on the glass during her high school career at Bishop Ludden in Syracuse, N.Y. Rauch averaged 7.1 boards per game and should be a force on the defensive side of the ball as well, evidenced by her 4.5 steals per game average last season.
While the guard spot features an influx of youth, many of the Wolverines’ veteran leaders can be found patrolling the frontcourt. Starting at forward is senior co-captain Nicole Munger. After shooting 40.4 percent from deep last season, Munger returns as Michigan’s top threat from deep and should be one of the team’s top offensive options. Last season, she averaged 9.1 points per game, and she emerged as a leader on the defensive side of the ball, averaging 1.1 steals per contest.
Joining Munger in the frontcourt will be sophomore Hailey Brown. Hailing from Ontario, Canada, Brown was a key contributor last season as a freshman and should return strong after having her campaign cut short by a lower leg injury. Before she was sidelined, Brown was one of Michigan’s key contributors, averaging 9.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per game and shooting 46 percent from the field.
Junior Kayla Robbins also figures to be a fixture despite coming off the bench, bringing impressive hustle and tenacity on the defensive side of the ball. While Robbins only played 11.8 minutes per game in her sophomore season, she should see more playing time this year.
Michigan will also see two freshmen slot in at forward, with Emily Kiser and Naz Hillmon likely in line to earn minutes early. Kiser averaged 21 points and 13.4 rebounds as a senior, while Hillmon won a gold medal with the U18 USA basketball team at the FIBA Americas Championship, where she shot 67 percent from the field.
Rounding out the forwards are senior Samantha Trammell and graduate transfer Taylor Rooks, who previously played at Stanford and Harvard. Trammell should provide a solid veteran presence as a senior, and Rooks’ successful stint with the Crimson, which saw her earn All-Ivy honors in her senior year with averages of 12.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, should be a solid addition to the Wolverines’ front line.
Michigan only has one center on its roster, but she’s arguably the team’s most important player. Senior Hallie Thome will hold down the middle after coming off a season where she averaged 17.4 points and 7.0 rebounds per game and earned All-Big Ten first team honors. Thome will likely be the focal point of the offense, and she should be a consistent scoring threat after scoring over 20 points in 13 games last season, reaching double figures in all but three contests. She’s also an incredibly efficient shooter, converting 61.6 percent of her field goals and 77.5 percent of her free throws last season. Thome will also be taking on more of a leadership role this season, and will serve as the Wolverines’ captain along with fellow senior Nicole Munger.