Six freshmen help Illini build new team identity

By Sultan Abdul-Ahad

Women’s basketball looks to rebound from a 17-13 year, with six new freshmen joining this year’s team.

The Illini lost its two leading scorers from last year in Tiffanie Guthrie and Angelina Williams, who are now playing in the WNBA with the Phoenix Mercury. Illinois’ leading returning scorer is junior Erin Wigley, who averaged 9.7 points a game last season.

Head coach Theresa Grentz acknowledged the change the program has gone through.

“Our team is going to look a little different this year,” she said.

However, despite the number of new players, she has been very pleased with what she has seen of them so far.

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“I have been impressed with how focused they are,” she said. “They give me energy and the belief that they will do anything you ask them to.”

Grentz praised freshman forward Victoria Arndt.

“She reminds me so much of (former Illini standout) Ashley Berggren,” she said. “When I first saw her play she reminded me of her, she’s built like Ashley, she’s strong and she likes to take it to the basket.”

Redshirt freshman Megan Nyquist will return to the Illini after tearing her ACL last season in an exhibition game, along with seven other players.

“Megan has worked very hard, and I think she could be a big help because of her shooting ability, she can flat out stick it,” Grentz said.

During the press conference at Illini media day, Grentz gave a few hints as to the flexibility she will have with this team by stating that she may play 6’3″ sophomore Stephanie Chelleen at the small forward position because she is a good shooter.

“I like the way she shoots from the high post,” Grentz said.

One of the most important players for the Illini this season will be senior guard Janelle Hughes. Last season, she averaged seven points a game with a season high-21 against Pacific.

“Janelle is a tremendous talent,” she said. “She’s quick, athletic, can jump, can shoot.”

The non-conference schedule looks pretty favorable for the Illini as only three of its 11 opponents finished with winning records last season.

“I think the schedule is condusive to what we can do,” Grentz said.

Despite the loss of Wiliams and Guthrie, Grentz is confident that this team can overcome that loss of scoring.

“I’ve always found that someone always steps up,” Grentz said. “Someone is going to score those points.”