When asked about the freshman class towards the end of her press conference at Michigan Media Day on Tuesday, Michigan women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico’s face lit up.
“I was hoping somebody would ask about our freshmen,” Barnes Arico said. “I’m so excited to talk about them. … They’re incredible.”
The 25th-ranked Wolverines have three freshmen on the roster: forward Alyssa Crockett, guard Kate Clarke and forward Chyra Evans. Crockett and Clarke both hail from Indiana, while Evans comes to Ann Arbor from Australia. Although their real impact is still unknown ahead of the season, all three of them have already begun to build out their roles and establish their presence — albeit in different ways.
“Alyssa right now is playing more of probably a face up four for us and Kate is probably playing the wing,” Barnes Arico said. “(Evans is) different than the other two and she’s more of a traditional post, but a traditional post that shoots the three really well.”
Crockett, a former four-star recruit ranked No. 48 by ESPN, has been praised for her versatility — according to Barnes Arico, she is “positionless.” The six-foot-two athlete is an impressive shooter who runs the floor well and possesses a high basketball IQ, making her a force to be reckoned with all over the court.
Throughout the preseason, Crockett has been working specifically on rebounding — Barnes Arico is challenging her to become the best rebounder on the team, a trait that the Michigan coach said would most likely earn her significant minutes.
Another former four-star, Clarke is a smart player who is transitioning well into the team. She’s a strong shooter with the ability to knock down threes and a constant desire to learn.
“(Crockett and Clarke) haven’t had many tough freshmen days, so to speak,” Barnes Arico said. “You know, sometimes the freshmen don’t pick things up as quick and you have to go over it again and again and again in practice. And these guys seem to pick things up a lot faster.”
Evans, who joined Michigan later than Crockett and Clarke because she needed to obtain a U.S. visa, comes from a strong basketball family — both of her parents played and her mom is a coach. Because of that, she understands the game especially well. Barnes Arico emphasized her impressive footwork and strength, and she has experience at the professional level after playing for the Australian national team this past summer.
“Chyra played professional basketball, so to have that maturity level and just her game being a freshman I think is huge,” fifth-year forward Emily Kiser said. “I think it will take her a long way.”
Crockett, Clarke and Evans have all received high praise from their coach and teammates. However, their tangible on-court impact still remains to be seen. With experienced players returning to the team in both positions, Barnes Arico acknowledged that she’s not sure how many minutes the trio will get.
But regardless, they’ve already proven to be valuable additions to the team.
“They’re talented kids, but they’re the greatest kids,” Barnes Arico said. “You just see them and you kind of smile and you want to help them and you want to hear about their day, because they’re so engaging and they’re smart and they love basketball. They’re just an incredible, incredible group to be around.”
As they continue settling in and establishing their roles, that presence may just keep growing.