Myles looks to improve in second year


Ryan Ash

Sophomore forward Kennedi Myles advances the ball down the court during the game against Wisconsin on Sunday. The Illini lost the game 73-64.

By Nithin Reddy, Staff Writer

Sophomore forward Kennedi Myles is coming off of a solid freshman campaign for the Illinois women’s basketball team. In her first season, Myles set the team’s freshman record for double-doubles and finished third on the team in scoring.

Unfortunately for the Illini, those numbers did not help the team improve from the year prior, and Illinois finished with only two wins in the Big Ten ahead of only Penn State. This season, Myles is looking for different results.

“Our biggest goal is to get more wins than last year, but on top of that we’re striving to win the Big Ten and make it into the NCAA tournament,” Myles said.

Although Myles put up some solid numbers, she was playing out of position for most of the season, as injuries to Illini bigs forced her to play primarily inside. At 6-foot-2-inches, Myles struggled against bigger opponents and her field goal percentage was affected, shooting 38% from the floor. Guarding mostly centers in the Big Ten, Myles had a tough time scoring as well as defending around the rim.

This was most apparent in the Illini’s two matchups against Purdue. Myles scored just 12 points in those games and could not stop senior forward Ae’Rianna Harris who scored 13 points in the first matchup and 16 points in the second game while going a perfect 7-for-7 from the field.

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This year is different. Head coach Nancy Fahey and her staff emphasized finding inside help for this team, and it appears they have. 6-foot-5-inches redshirt junior center Eva Rubin stands out as the most obvious answer, but the addition of 6-foot-3-inches JuCo junior transfer Geovana Lopes will also help. Myles will finally have the chance to play a more comfortable role.

“Kennedi played her heart out playing against all bigger players, she had to match up against every Big Ten 5-player,” Fahey said. “She’s said, ‘coach, it’s going to be nice to pull some people out, make them guard me facing up and have the ability post players. We’ve actually slid her to the three/four, her flexibility and because she plays so hard it’s that energy you want on that court.”

Myles believes having bigs to play alongside her will only help her grow and improve this season. She cites the games she played with junior forward Mackenzie Blazek as reasons for optimism this year.

Myles, as well as Fahey, thinks she will be able to play to her strengths. Last year, Myles’ responsibilities were limited to staying inside the paint and defending the rim. Expect to see her stretch out a little bit and add to her offensive arsenal this year.

“(Shooting) is one thing, especially during quarantine, that I’ve been working on,” Myles said. “Whether it be catch and shoot, off the dribble, mid-range (or)three-point, there’s definitely a lot more shooting that’s going to be coming from me.”

Myles says her transition from year one to year two playing college basketball has been pretty smooth, especially off the court. However, her offseason looked a bit different than usual. Due to the coronavirus, Myles was unable to play inside for much of quarantine. So, she used an outdoor hoop for most of her basketball-related workouts, though much of her offseason training consisted of running and anything she could do by herself.

Myles believes the focus on conditioning for herself, as well as the team, will translate to results during the upcoming season.

“As a team, our conditioning has jumped a lot, which is showing in the weight room,” Myles said. “Speed-wise, my goal while working out is I have to have that mindset and ability to play and guard three through five.”

If the Illini expect to compete in the Big Ten, Myles will likely have to improve on her freshman campaign. Despite leading returning players in scoring, rebounding, blocks and steals, Myles will have a completely different role this season, and how she adapts to it will be indicative of the amount of success Illinois can have.

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