By Dalton Ray —
Another year, another preseason ranking. Starting the season in the Top 25 is a reoccurring theme for women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz as his squad starts 2017-18 at No. 9.
Entering his 11th season, Walz wants to see development from role players.
“I’m looking forward to seeing a few players improve. They’ve done really well in practice, now I’m looking for them put that into a game,” Walz said.
The Cardinals are led by senior Myisha Hines-Allen and junior Asia Durr. The two are one of the nation’s most dangerous duos.
Hines-Allen took a dip in scoring production during her junior year – 17.6 points in 2015-16 to 13.9 2016-17.
The drop can be attributed to two reasons: Expanding her game away from the post and the emergence of Durr.
By taking more outside shots, Hines-Allen’s field goal percentage went from 54 percent as a sophomore to 49 percent as a junior.
Walz anticipates improved conditioning to lead to a more consistent year.
“ (Hines-Allen) is in the best shape she has been in since being here,” Walz said. “In her first three years, she struggled early in the year and picked it up in conference play. Now, she has to pick it up from the first game.”
For Durr, Walz wants her to become more of a playmaker.
“(Durr and I) have talked about improving her assist numbers. She scores the ball so well, now it’s can you get your teammates involved? I’m challenging her to get to that 100 assist mark,” Walz said.
Durr will likely become the primary ball-handler with the graduation of point guards Briahannah Jackson and Taylor Johnson. U of L also lost their assist leader Mariya Moore.
Louisville must replace 76 percent of their assists from last season.
Durr will get help facilitating the offense from redshirt junior Arica Carter. Missing last season with a hip injury, Carter noticed the small things matter.
“I’ve been talking about (focusing on the small things) so much. As a player, those things might not matter,” Carter said. “Good passes, talking, calling for the ball. All those little things matter.”
Carter has learned to focus on her teammates more, which may lead to a career year as a point guard.
Walz says junior Sam Fuehring is playing the best she ever has during her time at U of L.
An underwhelming sophomore year, Fuehring only averaged 3.6 points and 2.5 rebounds.
“Last year, I wasn’t allowed to shoot really. Now, I can play my game – inside and out,” Fuehring said.
The junior will be battling with sophomore Kylee Shook for a starting spot.
Shook, 6-foot-4, started the last 13 games of last season. She led the team with 34 blocks and knocked down 39 percent of three pointers. Improved conditioning could carve a starting spot out for the sophomore.
Jazmine Jones is another sophomore that will be heavily relied on. Jones will take Moore’s position, but is much a different player.
An athletic and attacking wing, Jones’ defense could be a game changer – a role she accepts.
“I can be a more forceful impact on defense. I can use my athleticism to get steals and easy buckets,” Jones said.
Jones says her game has changed because of her conditioning, allowing her to play more free.
Sophomore Sydney Zambrotta can provide a 3-point threat off the bench, if she can stay consistent.
While confidence may have waivered last year, Walz tells Zambrotta to battle through.
“(Walz) always tells me to keep shooting in practice and get my rhythm threes,” Zambrotta said. “He always expects me to stay loud and keep talking to my teammates.”
Freshman Dana Evans will be expected to play a lot this year to help fill out the back court. Walz thinks she will be one of the team’s best defenders.
“Dana Evans has really looked great. She changes the game at the defensive end of the floor,” Walz said. “She’s really good on the ball, she anticipates extremely well … she gets a lot of deflections.”
A five-star, Evans was the ninth-ranked recruit by ESPN. Named to the Preseason ACC Newcomer Watch List, Evans is fifth all-time in Indiana high school history with 2,832 points.
The Cardinals started the season with a home win over Southeast Missouri and an overtime victory over No. 5 Ohio State.
Pegged second in the ACC, Louisville has all the makings to have a deep postseason run.
You can follow Dalton Ray on Twitter @dray5477.
File photo / The Louisville Cardinal