Daily Egyptian

SIU women’s basketball integrating underclassmen into rotations

Freshman+guard+Kristen+Nelson+attempts+a+basket+during+SIU%27s+114-24+exhibition+win+against+McMurray+College+on+Friday%2C+Nov.+4%2C+2016%2C+at+SIU+Arena.+%28Jacob+Wiegand+%7C+%40JacobWiegand_DE%29
Freshman guard Kristen Nelson attempts a basket during SIU's 114-24 exhibition win against McMurray College on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @JacobWiegand_DE)

Freshman guard Kristen Nelson attempts a basket during SIU's 114-24 exhibition win against McMurray College on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @JacobWiegand_DE)

Jacob Wiegand

Jacob Wiegand

Freshman guard Kristen Nelson attempts a basket during SIU's 114-24 exhibition win against McMurray College on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @JacobWiegand_DE)

The SIU women’s basketball team has a lot of new faces this year.

With five true freshmen and redshirt freshman forward Tiajaney Hawkins, almost half of this season’s roster will have little to no collegiate playing experience before this year.

The Salukis had four seniors graduate last year, including guard Cartaesha Macklin, who averaged 13.8 points and 3.6 assist per game, and center Dyana Pierre, who averaged 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Salukis.

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Macklin and Pierre are both etched in Saluki history as Macklin has the school records for career points scored (1779) and free throws made (465).

Pierre had the career rebounding totals (1,218) and career blocked shots (162).

Saluki forward/center Dyana Pierre attempts a basket during SIU'S 80-66 win against Wichita State on March 11 at SIU Arena. (DailyEgyptian.com file photo)

Saluki forward/center Dyana Pierre attempts a basket during SIU’S 80-66 win against Wichita State on March 11 at SIU Arena. (DailyEgyptian.com file photo)

Fourth-year head coach Cindy Stein plans to get these young players on the court a lot so they can be more comfortable.

“Our young kids need confidence,” Stein said. “They’re going to get confidence with the more reps that they have.”

The team is also working hard to integrate the freshmen with the returning upperclassmen to have a cohesive team.

Senior guard Rishonda Napier said getting the young freshmen to mesh with the team is an ongoing process.

“It’s not going to happen in a day,” she said. “It’s not going to happen in a week, but we work hard everyday so our chemistry is rising everyday.”

Saluki senior guard Rishonda Napier passes the ball during SIU's 78-58 win against William Woods University on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @JacobWiegand_DE)

Saluki senior guard Rishonda Napier passes the ball during SIU’s 78-58 win against William Woods University on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @JacobWiegand_DE)

The team is getting better everyday as new and older players are learning from each other.

Stein said Napier’s efforts are being reciprocated and the freshmen are making it hard for upperclassmen in practice as well.

SIU’s underclassmen had a rough awakening to Division I basketball on Sunday against Oklahoma. They went a combined 1-10 from the floor with forward Lauren Hartman being the only scorer with seven points.

As time goes on, one of the freshmen said one of the biggest advantages is having so many women like her on the team.

“It’s nice to know that you not the only one that maybe doesn’t know what’s going on,” guard Brittney Patrick said. “So you’re not afraid to ask questions. It’s nice to know there are other people like you.”

Stein expects big things out of her team and the underclassmen have to perform if the goals are going to be met.

“We’re not going to have the success we expect to have unless our freshmen step up and play well,” Stein said. “They’re almost half the team. For us to win a championship — have a chance to win a championship — they have to play well. That’s not to put pressure on them, that’s real life.”

Staff writer Jonathan Thompson can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @TheReal_Jt3.

To stay up to date with all your SIU basketball news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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