Now that Midnight Madness is over and the the MSU women’s basketball team prepares to take the court for the first time next Thursday against Saginaw Valley State, head coach Suzy Merchant answered questions at Big Ten media days in Chicago on Thursday.
“We’ve graduated some key kids off last year’s team, but the youth that we have is really exciting and kids are going to be very impactful right out of the gates,” Merchant said. “The issue with that is that we’ve got nine freshmen and sophomores, so we’re a very young team but very talented, too.”
After tearing her ACL for the second straight year, there are a lot of questions about the health of sophomore center Madison Williams, and Merchant said that a medical redshirt might be in her future.
“She’ll be a kid that we apply for that sixth year later down the road,” Merchant said. “But it’s been a challenge a little bit. So she swells a little bit there in her knees. The big thing is that we stay on top of it medically and from a conditioning standpoint, as well.”
With suspensions to sophomore guard Kiana Johnson and redshirt freshman Akyah Taylor, and an injury to freshman guard Branndais Agee’s foot, plus with the fragile knees of Williams, Merchant said there is a dilemma of not having the same people practice everyday.
“Right now, the nice thing is on the women’s side that we have a scout team that helps us a little bit, so we can try those combinations against other kids while maybe some – like a Maddie might not be able to do that drill perhaps,” she said. “We have a situation with Brandi she can walk through some stuff, but she can’t do anything live.”
Merchant said they purposely made the first part of the schedule easier because the team knew they would be losing some key players like Lykendra Johnson and Porsche Poole, but said it worked out with the situations this year’s team has already been put through.
“And in some ways it’s kind of worked out with some of the injuries that we didn’t think we’d have that we do have and a couple other issues,” she said. “It’s certainly going to challenge us, though. When you have a young team that’s never been there and done it, it is a little interesting.”