Saturday, December 4, 2021

Merchant hopes injury bug keeps its distance in 2013-14

October 24, 2013

MSU women’s basketball head coach Suzy Merchant and select players look ahead to the team’s season at media day.

Photo by Derek Blalock | The State News

Last season was plagued with injuries and suspensions for MSU women’s basketball.

Despite opening the season with one of its best starts in school history — winning 13 of its first 14 games, and later getting to the Big Ten championship game and making the NCAA Tournament — MSU played much of last season without key contributing members. The Spartans’ playing lineup consisted mainly of six players, and this season they can expect a couple key additions.

Prior to the season, the Spartans lost then-“sophomore guard Kiana Johnson”: and then-redshirt freshman forward Akyah Taylor to nine-game suspensions for receiving extra benefits.

They also lost redshirt freshman guard Aerial Powers and redshirt junior center Madison Williams to injuries before the start of the season. Powers tore her Achilles and Williams tore her anterior cruciate ligament. It was the third time Williams tore her ACL since being at MSU. After only five games, MSU also lost redshirt freshman guard Branndais Agee to an ACL injury in a mid-December practice.

“(I) got my fingers crossed for our injury bug, but if all goes well, I think we have a very exciting team,” head coach Suzy Merchant said at the team’s media day Thursday afternoon. “(This is) a team that has athleticism, some skill, ability to extend defenses, (and) some post play if we can get Madison in there with Becca (Mills) and (Jasmine Hines).”

Merchant said they are not pushing Williams to come back and said during her press conference this is basically Williams’ last shot at coming back, but she is preparing the team as if they will not have her. She said they are looking at a mid-December start for Williams, who has not practiced live except for playing without a defense.

The six-foot-seven center from Berkley, Mich., was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school, and was a McDonald’s All-American her senior year in high school. Since arriving in East Lansing, she only has appeared in three games.

As she attempts her comeback, Williams knows the expectations are low and is just trying to stay healthy the entire year.

“Obviously it’s a huge thing, it’s a hard thing to come back from that, one ACL let alone three is a lot,” Williams said. “The most difficult part for me is realizing that I’ll never or might not necessarily be at the potential I could’ve been at.”

Other than Williams, the Spartans will get a healthy Agee and Powers back to the team.

Merchant said both are special freshman and will be an exciting piece to this year’s offense.

Powers said she feels like this team can be much better than last year’s team that received a berth to the NCAA Tournament but lost in the second round to Maryland. Powers said without Agee, Williams and herself, the team still won 25 games, and with her and Agee back 100 percent healthy and Williams on the mend, they can help the team become even better.

“(What) they have in their repertoire as players is their ability to get their own shot. That sounds kind of simple and silly, but on the women’s side, that’s not always the case,” Merchant said. “Sometimes you have kids that really need screens, they need to be set up and put in the exact spot. When Branndais and Aerial have the ball in their hands, they can get off any shot anytime, anywhere, and that’s an exciting piece to our offense.”

With only two seniors on this year’s squad, senior guard Klarissa Bell and senior forward Annalise Pickrel will look to step up as the leaders and vocal members of the team.

“I always say as your seniors go, so goes your team,” Merchant said. “Whatever sport it is, those two kids are going to set the tone, and set the tone from the locker room on out to the 40 minutes that we play on the floor and practice.”

Do you want the news without having to hunt for it? Sign up for our morning s'newsletter. It's everything your friends are talking about and then some. And it's free!


Share and discuss “Merchant hopes injury bug keeps its distance in 2013-14” on social media.