The Michigan women’s basketball team didn’t lose much star power with the departure of last season’s seniors. And with a top-20 recruiting class to fill the void the seniors left, the Wolverines are primed for their first NCAA Tournament run since the 2012-13 season.
While the team is still young, the coaching staff, led by Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico, is in its third straight year together and is built around a big three of Katelynn Flaherty, Siera Thompson and Hallie Thome.
If last year is any indication, the Wolverines will want to make use of their depth at the guard position by keeping three on the court as often as possible.
As the only Wolverine to gain national attention, junior Katelynn Flaherty spearheads the team from the point. At just 5-foot-7, Flaherty has overcome her small stature and become the team’s leading scorer by far. With an average of 22.1 points per game and a 40 percent average from behind the arc last season, Michigan will rely heavily on her as its main offensive threat.
Senior Siera Thompson started all 35 games last year, and unless something drastic happens, Barnes Arico is expected to keep her on the court for at least half of each game. Thompson is known for her consistency, putting up an average of 9.4 points per game. But her real contribution to the frontcourt is her playmaking ability — Thompson averages more assists than any other Wolverine.
Senior Danielle Williams will be fighting for a starting position once again this year. While she didn’t average many minutes — just 12.7 last season — she brings experience to the group of guards. Williams is also one of Michigan’s best rebounders, which could prove to be essential to this year’s team.
The first guard off the bench will likely be native Michigander and freshman Kysre Gondrezick. Gondrezick was Ms. Basketball her senior year, averaging 40.5 points per game and posting a high school women’s basketball record of 72 points in a playoff game. If she can continue sinking shots at the collegiate level, she could be a real difference-maker once she grows acclimated to the faster pace of the game. Until that shift, she will be a player Michigan can substitute in if Flaherty picks up a foul.
Sophomores Nicole Munger and Boogie Brozoski will provide a shooting threat off the bench for the Wolverines. Munger received sparse playing time in her first season, but still maintained a .368 3-point percentage, while Brozoski mustered a .426 percentage from beyond the arc. While both should see an increased role in Barnes Arico’s offense, Brozoski will have to improve her ball-handling skills after turning the ball over 62 times in her freshman season.
With such a guard-heavy lineup, Michigan will have to rely on the durability of its forwards to maintain a solid rebounding and low-post presence.
The Wolverines lost two solid rebounders with the graduations of Kelsey Mitchell and Madison Ristovski, but they should be more than capable of making up for it with a more experienced frontcourt.
Junior Jillian Dunston leads the forwards, coming off a sophomore campaign in which she averaged 4.4 points and a team-high 5.6 boards per game. Dunston should see an expanded role this year, as the Wolverines will rely on her more often on the defensive end.
Besides Dunston, the rest of the forwards haven’t seen much playing time. Sophomore Sam Trammel and junior Maria Backman have both played on the court at the collegiate level, but neither of them have received regular playing time. Trammal grabbed 31 boards in limited action during her first season, and Backman, who made the switch to forward last season, has one of the team’s highest field goal percentages at 60.9. Freshmen KeAsja Peace and Kayla Robbins stand at 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-1, respectively, but may not be able to see much playing time if the Wolverines run a three-guard system.
Six-foot-five sophomore Hallie Thome is Michigan’s only true center. The frontcourt talent finished last season scoring in the double digits for 25 out of the 35 games. Thome is an important returning starter who became just the second freshman in program history to record 500 points and and set a school single-season record in field-goal percentage (63.1). The All-Big Ten honorable mention is the tallest athlete on the team — for now.
Redshirt junior Abby Cole is also 6-foot-5 and will be joining the Wolverines after her volleyball season ends in December. Her transition to basketball is highly anticipated, as her physical stature will literally push Michigan to new heights. Though Cole hasn’t touched a basketball since high school — four years ago — Barnes Arico is confident that she will complement Thome at center.