Three players put SIU women’s basketball in prestigious company

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By Ted Ward, @TedWard_DE

Saluki women’s basketball may not be ranked in a top-25 poll, but the team does share a distinction with two AP top-10 programs.

SIU (11-8, 4-3 Missouri Valley Conference) is one of three teams to have three players with more than 1,000 career points, alongside Oregon State and Connecticut.

The trio of senior center Dyana Pierre (1,332 career points), senior guard Cartaesha Macklin (1,572 career points) and junior guard Rishonda Napier (1,093 career points) have been together since the 2012-13 season, the last of the Missy Tiber regime. Macklin recently became the program’s all-time leading scorer, and Napier could come close to her record if she averages about 14 points a game during the rest of her career and doesn’t miss any games. 

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The players are also the top-three scorers for SIU this season, scoring a combined 59 percent of the team’s points.

Napier talked about playing with two probable Saluki Hall of Famers. 

“They taught me to keep my head up and be humble and just work hard,” Napier said. “They also taught me to take nothing for granted and go out and play hard.”

UConn, which also has a 2,000-point scorer in forward/center Breanna Stewart, is one of the most prestigious programs in women’s hoops, winning 10 national championships, including three in a row on two occasions.

SIU coach Cindy Stein said it’s an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as a team like the Huskies.

“[Pierre, Macklin and Napier] have certainly been a big part of our program,” she said. “They’re very coachable and get after it every day of practice, but I know they’ll tell you individual accomplishments aren’t their main focus.”

Macklin, who became the top scorer in SIU history during a 74-56 win against Evansville last week, said exactly what her coach predicted she would.

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“It’s really cool knowing that you’re in that exclusive club with those two great programs,” said the Mayo, Fla., native. “But we’re focused on trying to win a championship, and individual success isn’t as great as team success.”

Napier said, as a point guard, it puts her mind at ease knowing she has two elite scorers to go to.

“Knowing I can put the ball in their hands and let them go to work makes my job easier,” she said. “They’re both amazing teammates and work really hard.”

All three players are in the top 20 in scoring in the conference, and Pierre is the current leader in rebounds with 12.2 per game. Macklin and Napier are in the top 10 in assists. 

The backcourt has been crowded this season with Macklin and Napier playing the majority of minutes, but freshman guard Olivia Bowling has still been able to learn from the two.

“They push everyone to be their best in practice everyday,” she said. “They’ve helped make the transition to college ball easier and are always upbeat and come ready to go.”

Ted Ward can be reached at [email protected] or 618-534-3303

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