Merchant says key to success will be "versatility" for upcoming season
The MSU women’s basketball team held its annual media day at the Breslin Center Wednesday, after fans got a first glance at the team during MSU Madness on Oct. 14. There, head coach Suzy Merchant spoke in a press conference, addressing the changes since last offseason.
Merchant said the Spartans had a successful campaign in 2015-16. They reached the Big Ten Tournament championship game, along with a trip to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Merchant’s squad looks different even compared to just last season, especially after the departure of Aerial Powers to the WNBA. While losing Powers, the No. 5 overall pick is challenging, Merchant said her team will overcome it through one key aspect — versatility.
“As coaches, we’ve been talking a lot about our team,” Merchant said. “The one thing that keeps coming up about our team is the versatility that we have at all positions. … This year, I think you’ll see a team that can play multiple positions.”
Along with the versatility Merchant stressed, she said Powers' early departure gives her team the opportunity to create a new identity. Before, the team gave its star player the chance to isolate and create her own shot. Now, it’ll be a little bit different because of the team dynamic.
But after the sheer amount of points Powers was responsible for — a career total of 1,817 points, a Spartan record — Merchant said it’ll be on the entire team to make up for the offensive output.
“I think we pass the ball, share the ball pretty well, too,” Merchant said. “So for us, you can’t make up Aerial with one person. I think collectively we’re going to have to work together to make up some of her points.”
One Spartan the team will lean on is a newcomer, graduate-transfer Taya Reimer. Reimer comes to MSU after playing two seasons at the University of Notre Dame.
The 6-foot-4 forward was a starter during her time with the Fighting Irish. In the 2014-15 season, she played in 37 games, starting 35 of them. Last year, though, she was only able to play in five games as she was sidelined with an Achilles injury.
Now, Reimer is a Spartan and she said a big reason of why she transferred here was simple — the family aspect of it all.
“I definitely wanted to go somewhere where I felt like it was a family atmosphere with the team and the program,” Reimer said. “I felt like I could still go somewhere where I was still getting better basketball-wise.”
Along with her starting experience at Notre Dame, she also played in two national championship games, bringing a wealth of experience to the team.
“The one thing you always think about with (Reimer) is she’s been a winner everywhere she’s been,” Merchant said. “She’s a McDonald’s All-American, she knows how to compete at a high level.”
While Merchant said Reimer has been a winner everywhere she went, her teammates said she brings a veteran leadership to the court when she plays.
On the other end of the spectrum, freshman guard Taryn McCutcheon said she’s been able to learn a few things from Reimer, both on and off the court.
“I’ve learned a lot of things from (Reimer) from just being around her,” McCutcheon said. “We’ve actually gotten really closer. I was so excited when I knew she was coming here because I knew what kind of player she was. Now that I know her as a person, it’s even better.”
Reimer and McCutcheon represent two of the five newcomers to the MSU program. Along with them, the team will mix its experience and youth after being led by their upperclassmen last season.
The Spartans will kick off their season when they host Northwood University, Nov. 6, in an exhibition game. The match will begin at 2 p.m. at the Breslin Center.