Wright State women loaded with offensive weapons

Wright State’s Shamarre Hale puts up a shot vs. Oakland on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. Joseph Craven/WSU Athletics
Wright State’s Shamarre Hale puts up a shot vs. Oakland on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. Joseph Craven/WSU Athletics

Raiders open the season Nov. 25 at home vs. Toledo

The wait to kick off the college basketball season may seem like an eternity to some — it’s two weeks later than normal — but Wright State women’s coach Katrina Merriweather wishes she had even more time before having to do battle against Toledo in the Nov. 25 home opener.

Though she has plenty of veterans to build around, Merriweather didn’t have access to her players through the spring and most of the summer because of COVID-19. And after an extended stretch with no strength-and-conditioning workouts, Merriweather figured the best approach for all was to ease into preseason practice.

“They didn’t hardly do anything all summer until we got them in July. They’d been sitting out for months,” she said. “Everyone is really cautious about the return to play and making sure we’re going slow so we can prevent any potential injuries.”

The Raiders — who also have games against Butler and Michigan on the road and Bradley at home before starting Horizon League play Dec. 12 — may be more equipped than most to handle losing a player or two.

They have a preseason first-team all-conference pick in junior guard Angel Baker, who was third in the league in scoring last season with a 16.5 average and first in assists at 3.8, and a second-team selection in 6-foo-2 sophomore forward Shamarre Hale (8.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game)

“Angel looks great,” Merriweather said. "She has really focused on being a better leader. She’s playing on both ends of the floor, which is what we’ve asked from her.

“She’s a candidate for player of the year, and if she’s going to do that, she’s got to be able to defend. And she’s responding really well to that.”

Though she’s dealing with a gimpy knee, 6-4 senior center Tyler Frierson is expected to lead the Raiders to another strong showing on the glass. She was first in the league in rebounding last season with a 9.0 average, and Wright State was 14th in the nation with a plus-8.8 rebound margin after finishing 22nd in 2018-19 at 7.1 and 41st in 2017-18 at 6.0.

“Tyler is going to be OK. She’ll probably get herself into playing shape somewhere around December or January,” Merriweather said.

All-conference guard Michal Miller and another steady starter in Jalise Beck have graduated, but Merriweather’s teams always seem to have ample depth.

Junior forward Alexis Stover started every game last season as the Raiders went 19-12 and tied for second in the conference at 13-5. Sophomore guard Jada Roberson, who was a key part of the rotation, also is back. And West Virginia transfer Jada Wright, a 6-3 junior who was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA, will fortify the frontcourt.

“We’ve just got so many things going for us. We’re really tall. We’re really athletic. And have some great scoring potential,” the fifth-year coach said.

The Raiders went 25-9, 23-11 and 27-7 in Merriweather’s first three seasons, winning two regular-season league titles and a conference tourney crown.

Though they were picked to finish third in the league behind favorite IUPUI and Green Bay, they won’t consider the season a success unless they have more banners to hang when it’s over.

“We’re really excited about the talent we have. The challenge we have every year is we have some very explosive offensive players, but we have to always do a significant work defensively because everyone just likes to shoot and score,” Merriweather said with a laugh.

“I can appreciate the high-octane offense and aggressiveness, but we have to figure out how to transfer that to the defensive end.”

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