Kim Barnes Arico knows replacing the productive trio of Cyesha Goree, Shannon Smith and Nicole Elmblad will be one of the most difficult challenges she’s faced thus far in her coaching career.
After graduating the three seniors who finished their senior years with a 20-15 record and a trip to the WNIT semifinal, the Michigan women’s basketball coach retained a squad of just four scholarship juniors and seniors.
A group of five sophomores and four freshmen make up the core of the Wolverines’ 2015-16 roster.
As in years past, the guard position is stacked and will give Barnes Arico plenty of options off the bench. Michigan will likely have to use its range of shooters to make up for its greatest weakness — a lack of proven depth in the low post. The Daily breaks down the Wolverines’ 2015-16 roster below:
The collection of guards Barnes Arico has assembled may be as deep and talented as any other unit she’s had in Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines return two starters at the position — juniors Siera Thompson and Danielle Williams — while freshmen Lauren ‘Boogie’ Brozoski and Nicole Munger add to the already impressive group. As a result of the depth at the position, Barnes Arico has decided she’ll be playing with three guards on the court in most situations.
Thompson is expected to be the leader at the point of Michigan’s three-guard lineup. The junior is the Wolverines’ most experienced player at the ‘1,’ starting 65 of 69 games she has appeared in. Thompson has proven not only to be a shooter, scoring 12.1 points per game, but also a hard worker in other areas.
Despite her proven abilities, Thompson’s starting spot isn’t 100-percent secure with Brozoski pushing her from behind every day. With great hustle and quick hands, the freshman’s raw defensive skill has gotten the attention of Barnes Arico. In Sunday’s exhibition against Ferris State, Brozoski entered the game at the head of Michigan’s press, and wreaked havoc for Bulldog ball handlers throughout her first collegiate contest.
With no traditional small forward on the roster, the Wolverines plan on using two shooting guards to play on the wings. Michigan’s star scorer off the bench last season, sophomore Katelynn Flaherty, will occupy one of the starting wing positions. Flaherty is primed to have a breakout season, not only as a spot-up shooter who shot 42 percent from the field last year, but also in other areas. The sophomore worked hard on her physicality over the summer, and will look to drive to the basket and become more of an inside presence as the season rolls on.
Flaherty is expected to face tough defensive assignments in most games, and will need help from the Wolverines’ other shooters to overcome the challenge. Senior Madison Ristovski started alongside Flaherty against Ferris State, and will likely be opposite the sophomore a majority of the time. Ristovski has been a consistent scorer for Michigan throughout her career, shooting 41 percent overall and 39 percent from behind the arc.
Right behind Ristovski, Williams and Munger are fighting to earn important roles in Barnes Arico’s lineup as well. Williams started 20 games last season, but wasn’t an offensive threat, as she scored just 35 points. The junior will most likely be a defensive specialist and will look to build upon the 11 multi-steal games she recorded in 2014-15.
Munger will look to fill a role similar to Flaherty’s last year — Michigan’s lights-out shooter coming off the bench. Her defensive skills may not be at a point where Barnes Arico feels comfortable handing her a larger role, but Munger will be present in situations when the Wolverines need points in a hurry.
The Wolverines graduated 59 percent of their rebounding from last season, and figuring out how that number will be replaced has been one of Barnes Arico’s biggest challenges over the offseason. Sophomore Jillian Dunston is the retuning forward who grabbed the most boards for Michigan in 2014-15, at 2.6 per game.
Dunston’s primary role, however, will be coming off the bench behind senior Kelsey Mitchell. After injuries have hampered a majority of her career, Mitchell was finally healthy this preseason, and has impressed Barnes Arico both on and off the court.
The forward position thins out after Mitchell and Dunston. Freshman Sam Trammel may see playing time if the others in front of her get into foul or injury trouble. Otherwise, Barnes Arico may have to turn to guard-heavy lineups to make up for a lack of depth at the post.
At 6-foot-5, freshman Hallie Thome was a giant recruiting win for Barnes Arico. The Wolverines need a special frontcourt talent if they plan on contending in the Big Ten, and Thome has the potential to be just that. Thome scored 19.5 points, grabbed 9.1 rebounds and blocked 4.6 shots per game in her senior high school season. The Gatorade State Player of the Year in Ohio brings the combination of height and finesse the Wolverines have not seen in recent years.
Sophomore Terra Stapleton is the only other true center on the roster, and she logged just 33 minutes in her freshman season. When Thome’s not on the court, the center position will most likely be occupied by Mitchell, but if the two get in foul trouble late in games, or are out due to injury, Michigan could be in real trouble if it needs experienced options to play at the post.