Darren Hellwege, Sports Commentator
Summer workouts continue as the Missouri Tigers women’s basketball team prepares for the 2014-2015 season. Coach Robin Pingeton’s club will try to improve on last year’s 17-14 record and second consecutive WNIT appearance. While Bri Kulas’ graduation leaves big shoes to fill, the Tigers welcome four new players to the team. One is a junior college transfer, another a transfer whose required year off the court is finished, and two are among the outstanding high school players from Missouri of the last few years. Here’s a look at the newest members of the team:
Juanita Robinson (junior college transfer) — 4-star recruit and ranked in top 100 nationally by ESPN out of high school. Originally signed with Ohio but ended up instead at Johnson County Community College, the same school as Bri Kulas. Junior College All-American, averaged 11 points and more than five rebounds and three steals per game last year at JCCC. Praised for speed and athleticism.
Abrianna “Bri” Porter (Incoming freshman) — A top 50 recruit nationally by ESPN and Premier Girls Basketball Report, part of the outstanding program Jill Nagel has built at Columbia’s Rock Bridge High School. Long forward (6’2”) plays team ball and tough defense. Has battled back from serious injuries to both knees. Daughter of Mizzou assistant Mike Porter, and her younger sister Cierra is headed into her senior season at Rock Bridge and has also given a verbal commitment to play for the Tigers.
Davionna Holmes (transfer) — After sitting out a year, the former Louisville Cardinal will play for the Tigers in 2014-15. Another long forward (6’3”), she played both volleyball and basketball at Louisville but now appears ready to focus entirely on hoops. Speedy and has a strong shot, can hit the 3. Played high school ball in East St. Louis, Illinois.
Carrie Shephard (incoming freshman) — Reigning Miss Show-Me Basketball from the Bootheel town of Steele, Missouri, where she starred for South Pemiscot High School. The point guard can score in bunches, averaging more than 35 points a game her junior year and finishing her South Pemiscot career with more than 2,500 points. Only 5’6” but has a strong frame and is a workout warrior with a lot of the kind of leadership skills needed from a point. Second straight Miss Show-Me Basketball to come to Missouri after Sierra Michaelis, following in the footsteps of past winners of the award who starred for the Tigers including Kerensa Barr, Shakara Jones and Lisa Sandbothe.
In addition to a new head coach in Kim Anderson, the Mizzou men’s basketball team will feature a number of new faces on the court in 2013-2014. Missouri lost seven players to graduation (Ernest Ross), leaving early for the NBA draft (Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown), dismissal (Tony Criswell and Zach Price), transfer (Corey Haith) and just plain leaving the team (Danny Feldmann), leaving Anderson with plenty of holes to fill in the roster. Here’s a look at the newest members of the Tigers:
Cameron Biedscheid (transfer) — The former Notre Dame player will be eligible at the end of the fall semester for the Tigers and should add a lot. The 2012 Mr. Show-Me Basketball from Cardinal Ritter averaged 31.7 points and 9.6 rebounds a game as a senior. One of the top 10 recruits nationally at his position coming out of high school, Biedscheid played more than 17 minutes a game as a freshman for the Fighting Irish before sitting out most of last season. Big enough to play forward at 6-foot-7-inch but is said to have an outstanding shot from outside, giving Anderson some flexibility in how to use him once Biedscheid becomes eligible at mid-season.
Deuce Bello (transfer) — after sitting out a year after moving to Columbia from Baylor, Bello will be eligible for the full season and start as a junior. This guy never scored a lot at Baylor, but impressed me greatly with his skill and effort on defense, making him an ideal Kim Anderson-type player. With a year of practice with the Tigers and (one assumes) more playing time than he got in Waco, his offensive game should develop as well.
Tramaine Isabell (incoming freshman) — A late get for Mizzou, the point guard originally committed to Washington State but flipped when Cougars changed coaches. Anderson said of Isabell, “Tramaine is a strong, physical guard and his versatility to play either backcourt spot fits how we want to play offensively with multiple ball-handlers on the court.”
D’Angelo Allen (incoming freshman) — Two things stand out with this Dallas native small forward. First, he knows how to win, as part of three Texas 4A state championship teams. And secondly, watching film I was impressed with his play on the defensive end. Does all the little things well, he’s a vicious shot-blocker and very strong rebounder, the kind of player you can build a great team around.
Namon Wright (incoming freshman) — A highly-coveted recruit from the Los Angeles area, he originally committed to coach Frank Haith’s Tigers and Kim Anderson and his staff convincing Wright to stay with Mizzou was a real plus. A very good outside shooter who can score a lot, he has a thin frame and should benefit from time in the Tigers strength program. Ton of potential, transferred through several high schools and will definitely benefit from consistent coaching at the college level.
Keith Shamburger (transfer) — Because of NCAA rules, this graduate of the University of Hawaii will be immediately eligible to play for the Tigers. Played two years at San Jose State, starting every game, before starting 30 of 31 games for Rainbow Warriors. Provides experience and depth at point guard position. Was team leader in assists and free throw percentage at UH.
Jakeenan Gant (incoming freshman) — One of the top 60 players in the nation out of high school, he’s another player who decided to stay with the program after originally being recruited to Mizzou by Haith. A big strong kid who just looks like a power forward, the 2013 Mr. Georgia Basketball averaged more than 19 points and nearly 10 boards a game as a senior, and will put up some highlight reel dunks as well. Picked Mizzou over a who’s who of college hoops, including reported offers from Florida and Indiana.
Darren Hellwege is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and United States Basketball Writers Association