Wright State women’s basketball coach Katrina Merriweather could have put her team No. 1 on her ballot in the Horizon League preseason poll last week but decided against it — even though the Raiders are defending regular-season and tourney champs.
Not that she believes they’ve taken a step back.
“That’s only because of all we lost and things that are in question,” she said.
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Three 1,000-point scorers need to be replaced, including one who also topped 1,000 career rebounds.
But that didn’t keep the Raiders from being named co-favorites with Green Bay with four first-place votes each from the coaches, while IUPUI received the other two.
“When I talk to people or the coaches in the league, they jokingly say, ‘We know you have someone sitting over there we just don’t know about yet,’” Merriweather said.
The fourth-year coach, who has been recruiting at a level never seen before at Wright State, says she just laughs while revealing little.
But are there players poised for breakout seasons?
“Well,” she said, chuckling, “maybe a couple.”
That’s probably being on the conservative side.
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Fans already knew about senior guard Michal Miller, who was named preseason first-team all-league, and sophomore guard Angel Baker, a second-team pick.
Junior center Tyler Frierson will anchor the frontcourt. And the rest of Merriweather’s typically deep rotation will include a bevy of skilled players just waiting for a chance to show what they can do.
The Raiders, who finished 27-7 last season and 23-11 and 25-9 in Merriweather’s first two years, have a trio of key subs back in senior guard Jalise Beck, sophomore guard Anisja Harris and senior forward Teneshia Dixon. And they’ll be counting heavily on three promising newcomers: Ohio University transfer Alexis Stover and freshmen Shamarre Hill and Jada Roberson.
“We’re still really, really talented and, I think, even more athletic,” Merriweather said. “It’s just a matter of getting some chemistry out there because this group hasn’t played together at all, let alone very long.
“But every day, someone steps up. Michal and Angel are very dominant offensively. But you have those days where the others have their moments, and you’re like, ‘Oh, welcome to practice.’”
Frierson, Hill and Dixon, all listed at 6-foot-plus, will share time in the post, and the coaches have given them a goal of producing 20 points and 20 rebounds collectively per game.
Merriweather has pegged Stover, a 5-11 sophomore who played in 27 games for OU in 2017-18, as the starting power forward.
“She’s long, rangy, has a defensive presence and can really knock down the 3,” the coach said.
But with so many players taking on prime roles for the first time, Merriweather expects some rough waters.
“When you play on the (second) team and don’t have the pressure of being in the first five, you play so loose in practice. When those lights come on, and there’s officials, now all of a sudden it doesn’t feel like practice. Will you be able to perform?” she said.
“We anticipate some inconsistency in the beginning, and then I think we’ll get it worked out.”
So does Miller.
“I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people,” she said. “Last year, we had a great season. This year, we have to continue to prove ourselves and show what we’re capable of doing.
“I’m definitely excited. It’s my senior year, and I have a lot of big shoes to fill. I’m ready to get the ball rolling.”
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