Mountaineers look to return strong lineup next season

MORGANTOWN — The “what if” question, Teana Muldrow admits, long ago escaped from her thoughts, as well as the frustrations that came with it.

In truth, it was unfair to Muldrow and her WVU women’s basketball teammates that Tynice Martin’s broken foot kept her out the entire season.

What might have been with Martin playing with this group of players — who probably overachieved a bit in winning 25 games, narrowly missed the NCAA tournament and advanced as far as the WNIT semifinals without her — will always be an unanswered question.

“We probably would have gone to the NCAA tournament and had a better season,” Muldrow began just minutes after Virginia Tech ended WVU’s season and her college career with a 64-61 victory Wednesday. “I don’t know. I can’t really call it. I don’t think about it anymore. Those thoughts left my head a long time ago, to be honest.”

Major Harris’ injury in the 1989 Fiesta Bowl, Da’Sean Butler’s injury in the 2010 Final Four — maybe Martin’s setback doesn’t quite reach those levels in WVU lore, but the junior guard will have the opportunity to help the Mountaineers reach an elite level next season.

It will simply be with a much different cast of characters and a new look to the roster.

“You can bet on that,” WVU head coach Mike Carey said.

Carey projects WVU will have one of the deepest and most talented rotations of guards and wing players next season, which is where returning starters Katrina Pardee and Naomi Davenport fit in.

Before any of that can be realized, the big question will be at what level will Martin, who scored 18.6 points per game during the 2016-’17 season, be at once she returns?

Tynice Martin

“I’ve talked to a lot of people who have had that injury and I’ve talked to a lot of coaches who have had players come back from that injury and they’ve basically all said they come back at 100 percent,” Carey said. “It usually takes almost a year, and that’s what this is doing.

“She’ll get back, there’s no doubt. She’ll work and get back.”

If that’s the case, the Mountaineers do project to be loaded on the perimeter.

Also joining WVU next season will be Michigan transfer Kysre Gondrezick, a former all-Big Ten selection, who averaged 14.9 points per game as a freshman with the Wolverines.

The potential of pairing Martin and Gondrezick, who will likely see a lot of time at point guard, is something Carey wants to see.

“I think on the perimeter, we’ll be as good as anyone in the country next year,” Carey said. “Kysre is very good. We’ll get Tynice back. We’ll get Naomi back and Katrina back and I’m trying to bring in some more.

“Kysre can play. I can play her at the point guard, shooting guard or the wing. It doesn’t matter. She can score, pass and play.”

Pardee and Davenport combined to score 28.4 points per game this season and both started all 37 games.

WVU will also return Ashley Jones, who averaged 17 minutes as the backup point guard, and North Carolina State transfer Lucky Rudd will join WVU after the fall semester.

Rudd started nine games over two seasons with the Wolfpack. She averaged 6.5 points as a sophomore, before transferring to WVU.

“I wish we could start right now,” Davenport said. “It’s going to be a dog summer. Everybody is going to get better this summer.”

There will be questions up front, where Theresa Ekhelar will return, but she played just 13 minutes per game, mostly as Muldrow’s backup.

Incoming 6-foot-5 freshman Rochelle Norris was rated the 70th-best overall recruit in the country by espnW, and she and Ekhelar will likely rotate in the post.

Returning forward Destiny Harden will be joined by incoming freshman Kari Niblack, who will also add some size at 6-1.

WVU’s incoming recruiting class is ranked No. 16 in the country by espnW and also includes point guard Madisen Smith and 6-2 forward Jala Jordan.

Carey said he instructed his coaches to continue to recruit, because he didn’t plan on going through another season limited in numbers and depth because of injuries or players sitting out.

“We’ll bring people in, because I’m not doing this again,” Carey said. “We’ve got four coming in and I’m still looking.

“Somebody is not playing hard, they’re sitting. Somebody gets hurt, we have someone ready. If they don’t play hard, someone else will go in for them.”

WVU projects to have 10 returning players, as well as Rudd. The four incoming freshmen would give the Mountaineers a full allotment of 15 scholarship players.

The status of freshman forward Krystaline McCune and junior guard Anja Martin is unclear. McCune has been dealing with knee injuries that may end her basketball career. Martin missed this season after hip surgery and it’s possible she may not return.

Previous ArticleNext Article