Women’s Basketball: Top-notch freshman class looks to contribute


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Joe McKeown gestures. The coach will have to work in several highly-touted freshmen into his rotation this season.

Benjy Apelbaum, Assistant Sports Editor

Women’s Basketball

After losing five seniors from last year’s team, possibly the most impressive recruiting class since that 2013 group will have a chance to make an immediate impact for Northwestern this season.

Rated as the No. 18 class in the country and the best in the Big Ten by ESPN, the group is headlined by four-star guards Lindsey Pulliam and Jordan Hamilton. The injured three-star guard Lauryn Satterwhite and walk-on guard Brooke Pikiell round out the class.

The departures of last year’s starting point guard Ashley Deary and shooting guard Christen Inman leave gaping holes in the backcourt, which Hamilton and Pulliam will have an opportunity to help fill.

“(They’re) probably going to be thrown into the fire at times,” coach Joe McKeown said. “You’re going to lean on them, so they’ve got to be like sophomores sometimes, or juniors.”

Hamilton, who is from Frisco, Texas, and is likely to compete for minutes at the point guard spot with sophomore Byrdy Galernik, who was Deary’s backup last year but played sparingly. Hamilton said she is close family friends with Deary and that the fellow Texan has given her pointers to help improve her game.

The freshman will be responsible for pushing the pace and providing playmaking on a team whose strength this year will likely be in the frontcourt. But, before she has a chance to make an impact, Hamilton knows she will have to adapt to the faster speed of the college game.

“It’s been a gradual transition,” Hamilton said. “The team’s really helped me get acclimated with the different pace of the game.”

Pulliam will be asked to pick up the scoring load with the Wildcats’ top four scorers gone. During a recent open practice, the Silver Spring, Maryland, native displayed a smooth jump shot and a willingness to shoot from all over the floor. One aspect of her game, she said, has been a focus is her defense and attention to detail.

McKeown said he believed that Pulliam and Hamilton’s experience playing in big moments during high school would soothe their nerves when they begin playing at the collegiate level.

“(They) have been in a lot of big positions in high school,” McKeown said. “They’re fearless. … I don’t think they care that, if they have the ball late in a game and it’s a Big Ten team, to them it might (be) like beating their high school rival.”

One member of the class who will not be able to make an immediate impact is Satterwhite of Avondale, Arizona. Satterwhite is out indefinitely with a knee injury, but could add to the team’s long-term depth at the guard spot.

Rounding out the group is Pikiell, whose father is Steve Pikiell, the current head men’s basketball coach at Rutgers.

With NU facing significant turnover, the Cats will have to incorporate a plethora of new pieces on short notice. Pulliam said a key to the freshmen making an impact this season and for years to come has been off-court chemistry.

“We’ve been bonding a lot as a team,” Pulliam said. “We’ve been doing everything together, even since the summer session, so it has been good. We’re a pretty close team.”

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