Starting backcourt rock solid for Saluki women

Starting backcourt rock solid for Saluki women

By Thomas Donley, @tdonleyDE

Nothing stays the same forever, but the starting backcourt for SIU women’s basketball has been pretty close. 

Senior guard Cartaesha Macklin, junior guard Rishonda Napier and sophomore guard/forward Kylie Giebelhausen have combined to make 174 starts in 60 games the last two seasons. 

Giebelhausen has started 58 straight games after coming off the bench in the first two games of her freshman season. Napier, who missed three games with a shoulder injury last year, has started every game she has played in the past two seasons. Macklin came off the bench Nov. 29 at Memphis, but has started every other game in that same span.

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Coach Cindy Stein says her starting lineup is not set in stone, and that players must earn their starting spot for every game.

“My shooting ability and ball handling keeps me on the floor most of the time,” Napier said. “I just try to go out there and play my game and not do anything uncharacteristic.” 

Napier is eighth in the Missouri Valley Conference with 15.1 points per game. Macklin is 12th with 13.3 points. Giebelhausen averages 9.2 points per game, 25th-most in the Valley. 

All three are in the top 10 in the MVC in 3-point percentage. Giebelhausen, a 6-foot, 1-inch perimeter player, blocks 1.4 shots per game, first among Valley guards.

Stein said her backcourt trio’s chemistry has allowed them to play well together consistently. She said Giebelhausen fit in right away with her teammates who had been together for three years.

“One of the things we noticed real early with Kylie — not that she wasn’t good enough to start — was the fact that she put herself in a position where the chemistry on the floor was so much better,” Stein said. “And obviously her skill set has continued to improve, and they’ve been a really good group of guards that we can rely on.”

Giebelhausen said the early vote of confidence from Stein sparked her career progress.

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“If she would’ve sat me and only put me in at the end of games, I would not have been ready to play like I have been,” Giebelhausen said. “And giving me the opportunity to prove myself and play up to a higher competition gave me more confidence in myself. I think I’ve grown and I’ve played better.”

Another factor in Giebelhausen’s 56-start streak has been her conditioning habits. The East Peoria native runs on her days off.

“In the preseason, we run the two-mile, and I’m the only one who’s excited for it,” she said. “I really don’t mind running at all. I enjoy it. And that’s why I love the transition game. I like getting up and down the court, because I’m more of an endurance sprinter. I may not be the quickest one down the court, but I can be the first one back multiple times.”

Giebelhausen averages 30.1 minutes per game for her career. Macklin has averaged 31.1 minutes per game, and Napier has played 33.9 per game in each of the past two seasons.

“I get a few aches and bruises, but we all do,” Napier said. “Because our games are so fast, running the floor hard for 35 minutes can take a toll on you, but that’s why we have ice baths and stretching and foam rolling to recover.”

The Salukis open the MVC tournament as the fourth seed at 2:30 p.m. Friday in Moline against No. 5 Loyola.

Thomas Donley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3307

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