Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A fresh, new look for UMass women’s basketball

Three returners bolster the team
Kayla Wong
Daily Collegian (2023)

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team has wiped its slate clean for the upcoming 2023-24 season. With only three returners from the previous season, the Minutewomen start anew.

After the departure of head coach Tory Verdi last year, many of the players in turn followed suit. Former associate head coach Mike Leflar was promoted to the head coach role after Verdi’s departure. Leflar and his staff worked in the offseason to construct a team around the three returning players, Kristin Williams, Lilly Ferguson and Stefanie Kulesza to continue the Minutewomen’s success.

The new acquisitions consist of four freshmen and six transfers, making the Minutewomen almost an entirely new team. Among the transfers, there is only one underclassman, sophomore forward Mikenzie Jones. Jones made the switch to UMass from the University of Denver. Averaging 11.1 minutes per game off the bench, Jones has shown her talent through post moves and moving off the ball to create plays. Jones put up her best effort against South Dakota State last season, finishing with 20 points and nine rebounds.

The remainder of the transfers for UMass are all upperclassmen, adding some needed maturity to the roster after leaders Sam Breen and Destiney Philoxy graduated last year. With one graduate student, three seniors and one junior, the Minutewomen supplemented the experience that was lost.

Graduate student Bre Bellamy transferred from the William & Mary Tribe after finishing her senior year there. Bellamy, who started in games from her freshman year, averaged 7.6 points per game and six rebounds per game, while shooting 46 percent from the field in her senior season.

Coming off of an American Athletic Conference championship at East Carolina University, senior Alexsia Rose flashed her anticipation on and off the ball, grabbing 43 steals on the season. Rose, a guard, displays excellent decision-making skills, knowing when to pass and when to take the ball herself.

The first player that Leflar picked up in his first season as head coach was Jermany Mapp. Mapp is a senior guard who previously played at Hampton University. In the past season with the Pirates, Mapp averaged 7.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.

Senior guard Tori Hyduke has seen Atlantic 10 play before. Hyduke played one season for George Washington her freshman year, averaging nine points per game and leading the team with 29.4 minutes per game. Hyduke then transferred to Drexel University, playing three years for the Dragons using her quick scoring skills to impress Leflar, joining UMass for the 2023-24 season.

Finishing off the transfers is junior guard Allie Palmieri transferring in from Seton Hall University. Before her career at Seton Hall, Palmieri played in the spring semester at Power 5 school Boston College after graduating from high school early. Palmieri continued play with the Eagles for the beginning of her sophomore year and then joined the Pirates for the remainder of the season.

Freshman Dallas Pierce brings in some much needed shooting for the Minutewomen . She made impressions in the exhibition game against Assumption on Sunday going 5-for-6 from the field. Pierce chose UMass over three other A-10 schools, VCU, La Salle and St. Joseph’s.

Staying in state for school is freshman Chinenye Odenigbo who is coming to UMass from the Nobles & Greenough School located in Dedham, MA. Standing at 6-foot-5-inches, Odenigbo uses her height and length to deter opponents from attacking the hoop with her anticipation on blocks. Whether it’s a defensive rebound or a quick put-back on offense, Odenigbo is comfortable in the paint.

Freshman Avery Childers came into the Minutewomen program as a late addition, committing to UMass in May of her senior year of high school. She finished that year with an average of 17.3 points and 8.6 rebounds. With multiple facets to her game, Childers will be an asset to the Minutewomen.

Adding to the height on the team is freshman Lilly Taulelei who came across the country from New Zealand to play for the Minutewomen. Taulelei, a center/forward, is listed at 6-foot-3-inches and brings an element of strength to the paint.

With almost an entirely new roster and a new coach this 2023-24 season, UMass doesn’t have the experience that it has shown in the past years. Still, Bellamy and Leflar described their season in one word, “together.”

Rachel Toth can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @RachelToth46.

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