Women’s basketball preps for season with media day
Players, coaches have sights set on postseason tournament run
For head coach Suzy Merchant and the MSU women’s basketball team, the bar for this season is very high as they are expecting to win the Big Ten and compete for a national title.
“We’re really excited about our brand of women’s basketball within the NCAA and professionally, and we want to capitalize on that,” Merchant said.
With the suspension of sophomore guard Kiana Johnson and redshirt freshman forward Akyah Taylor, and an injury to freshman guard Branndais Agee, Merchant said the Spartans will not be deep at the point guard position — at least not for the first nine games of the season.
“Right now, we have Jasmine Thomas, a senior,” she said. “She is a captain for us, and she’s played some minutes for us. She’s a fourth-year senior, knows the program and has tremendous speed and athleticism. … That’s her natural position, so the positive thing is we don’t have to make someone a point guard who isn’t.”
Head coach Suzy Merchant talks to the media Monday at Breslin Center during media day. Justin Wan/The State News
“We have three people, but we’re certainly going to rely heavily on Jasmine Thomas,” Merchant said. “She’s ready for that role.”
Sophomore center Madison Williams, who is returning from her second consecutive ACL surgery, said the team’s goal is to go big or go home.
“Our team goal’s obviously to win the Big Ten championship because we think it’s very possible,” Williams said. “I think, for us, it’s really possible to look nationally. I really think that we have the potential to be a Final Four team. I know every team says that, but I think we have the possibility if we’re all peaking at the same time and bringing out the strengths that we have.”
With the suspensions of Johnson and Taylor, she said that the team is trying to stay positive.
“I think we all took it really, really well,” Williams said. “I think it was shocking for everyone. I’m not looking at it as something we’re losing — we just get two bigger players in the middle of the season when everybody else is at a plateau, so we’re going to be that much better. I think it can only be a positive thing.”
Even Bell said her expectations for the team are high for both this year and the next.
“I think we’re looking good,” Bell said. “We’re going to be good, (even though) we’re young. It’s just going to take reps to get us together. … This year, we’re going to do work; and next year, we’re going to be even better.”
After the suspensions, Bell was nominated by the team to replace Johnson as captain, and she said she’s excited for the responsibility.
“Knowing that my teammates nominated me for that position feels good,” she said. “I’m excited to be a leader for them on the court and be there off the court.”
With all the injuries and two suspensions, Merchant still said she has very high expectations for this very young team.
“The expectation is still to win,” she said.
“That’s how we’re built, and that’s what we’ll do: find a way to win.”