Desiree Elmore and Jasmine Smith may not have started their college basketball careers as Pirates, but they enter their senior years with a chance to leave a lasting mark.
Elmore comes into this season on 702 career points for the Pirates—the 47th all-time in program history—and could become the 23rd member of the 1,000-point club by the end of it. She was immense for the Pirates in the paint last season, averaging 13 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. She closed out her junior year with a 26-point performance in a loss to DePaul—the eventual tournament champions—in the Big East Tournament semifinals. With Shadeen Samuels gone due to graduation, the on-court leadership responsibilities will heavily fall more on Elmore to help pull the Pirates through tight games.
Photos via SHU Athletics
Smith comes into this season with the opportunity to solidify a starting role after mostly playing as a utility player off the bench last year. She gave the Pirates a reliable sixth piece during lineup changes though, proving her ability to score from range or drive at the net when a lane opens. Her veteran presence will be a big boost for a relatively young team to learn from and take note of this season.
Femi Funeus and Alexia Allesch provided the Pirates with the personalities and intangible contributions every side needs to have for that extra push toward a title-winning season.
Funeus’ return to the court from an injury she suffered midway through her freshman year was a huge morale boost for the team. She didn’t replicate the form she had in her first few games as a freshman, but it showed in spurts like her seven-point and three-rebound game at Creighton on Feb. 16.
Photo via SHU Athletics
Funeus has shown that when she’s healthy, she can be one of the most explosive players across the Big East, and that quality—added to a starting lineup of Mya Jackson, Lauren Park-Lane and Elmore—can compete for a Big East title this season.
Allesch is in a position similar to Smith in that they both provided good performances for the Pirates off the bench. Now it’s a question of whether they can win that starting role. Named Seton Hall Women’s Basketball Teammate of the Year last season, there’s no question Allesch’s teammates appreciate having her in the locker room, which could give her the confidence needed to make that next step in her college basketball career.
New kids on the block
Curtessia “Nunu” Dean and Mya Bembry are the fresh faces entering the Pirates’ squad through the transfer portal, and they could turn out to be some savvy pick-ups by Bozzella.
Nunu shot .455 from the floor and averaged 19.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists while collecting a host of individual awards as Trinity Valley finished with a 32-1 record last season. She comes into the program as a strong two-way player capable of hitting shots and doing the dirty work for rebounds in the paint. After an impressive two seasons with Trinity Valley, Pirate fans could be in for an exciting surprise in what Nunu offers the team on either side of the court this season.
Bembry’s freshman year wasn’t nearly as explosive from a point-scoring perspective—she averaged 1.5 points and 2.8 rebounds for Penn State—but Bozzella was also confident in her ability to collect rebounds during her recruitment process. At 6 feet 1 inch tall, Bembry is among the tallest players on the team and a dominant physical presence for the Pirates to utilize as the fulcrum of their offensive game.
Park-Lane and Jackson were the breakout stars of last season’s freshmen class, and they’re set up for even more success going into their sophomore years.
Photos via SHU Athletics
Park-Lane locked down a starting role for Seton Hall and never looked back. She was the only player to start all 31 games last season and led the team with 129 total assists and 4.2 assists per game. She’s already got big-game experience after contributing 27 points and 14 assists between Seton Hall’s two Big East Tournament matches against Butler and DePaul. The question for Park-Lane will now be if she can maintain her creative output under more defensive pressure from Big East opponents this season.
Jackson has come into the team as a revelation both on and off the court. She emerged from her freshman year with the mentality of a natural-born leader ready to jump into the driver’s seat for this season. Averaging 10 points with just five of her 27 appearances being starts was a testament to her ability to find her groove in a game quickly, and that should bode well for the Pirates at the start of games as well.
This is a very talented duo for the Pirates to build on this season.
Something to Prove
Danielle Robinson, Victoria Keenan and Kailah Harris played limited roles for the Pirates last season. While Robinson sat out injured all last season, Keenan and Harris saw around three minutes per game on the court during their freshman years at Seton Hall. However, the team seems to have only gotten stronger this coming into this season and this trio of players still have more to give to solidify a place in Bozzella’s side.
Photo via SHU Athletics
Keenan showed that she can contribute to the side offensively having put up eight points, three rebounds and an assist against Iona last season. Harris had a career-high four rebounds and two steals in that game as well and could grow into a reliable defensive option for Bozzella to turn towards down the stretch.
Photo via SHU Athletics
For Robinson, the career highlight is still her pair of three-point shots made against UConn in a 10-point performance. An impressive feat no doubt, but a season-long injury was not the ideal way she would have wanted to follow up her introductory year to the Pirates. It seems like a bit of a mountain to climb in terms of Bozzella’s pecking order of guards, but Robinson’s return to the team is essentially like a recruit coming into the side this season.
Britany Range, Skylar Treadwell, Amari Wright and McKenna Minter make up the incoming freshman class with a built-in winning mentality for Bozzella’s side this season.
Both Range and Minter come into the side having been three-year captains of their high school teams. Minter also brings a raw scoring ability with her to Seton Hall having hit over 1,000 points in high school despite missing most of her sophomore year with an ACL injury. Range was described by her former high school coach Michael Hayward as a player who takes direction well and pushes her teammates to make the extra effort to make a play defensively.
Treadwell received Herald Mail Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year as a high school senior. She probably tops the class in the classic work ethic with which so many Seton Hall players have been associated across the men’s and women’s teams. Wright also averaged 8.1 rebounds and 6.0 steals per game as a senior while also surpassing the 1,200-point landmark, so this incoming class of freshmen brings a wide range of talents across the board with them.
It’s a solid, hungry class that will keep the upperclassmen on their toes and constantly fighting for minutes this season.
Justin Sousa can be reached at [email protected] Find him on Twitter @JustinSousa99.