When the Northeastern women’s basketball team takes the floor for the first time in the new season, the squad will hardly look like the one from the Huskies’ season-ending loss to Towson in the CAA tournament.
Ahead of her second season with the Huskies, head coach Bridgette Mitchell navigated an offseason defined by new transfer portal rules across college basketball. After losing more than half of her squad in the offseason, Mitchell got creative to retool her roster, bringing five transfers and three freshmen.
Catch up on everything you need to know from the offseason before the new season tips off Monday afternoon.
Goodbye, Adios, Auf Wiedersehen
The transfer portal giveth and the transfer portal taketh away, and the Huskies were no exception. Though Northeastern added five transfers, they also lost some big players. Last year’s leading scorer and All-CAA first team selection Kendall Currence transferred to Temple for her final year of eligibility. CAA Rookie of the Year and conference steal leader Claudia Soriano moved back to Spain to continue her playing career. The Huskies also lost key bench players Leyla Öztürk and Century McCartney to the transfer portal, and starters Katie May and Emily Calabrese to graduation.
To recap, that’s five of Northeastern’s top six scorers from a year ago gone, as well as the leadership of three seniors and the conference rookie of the year.
However, the entirety of the CAA saw a talent exodus. Pick out any team in the conference, and there’s at least one key piece of the previous year’s squad gone to graduation or the portal. Putting Northeastern’s departures in this context, the Huskies aren’t alone.
The big name returning for the Huskies is Gemima Motema. An All-Rookie selection last year in the CAA after averaging nine points and three rebounds a game, the sophomore guard is Northeastern’s highest-scoring returner from last year. The expectation is that she takes a step forward this winter, and cements herself as a force in the starting lineup from day one.
“She’s made tremendous strides,” Mitchell said of Motema. “She’s handling the ball lower. She’s more explosive. She’s looking to shoot her three. She worked all summer on developing her three-point range. And so now she’s a three-level scorer, and we couldn’t be more excited about the work that she’s been able to put in with our coaches and her commitment to getting in the gym to get better.”
Mitchell was not only impressed with Motema’s on-court developments, but also her leadership presence despite only being a sophomore.
“For G to go from a shy freshman — she’s very soft spoken and an introvert — for her to go from that to actually pulling freshmen right on a defensive drill to show them their exact place, to see her go to that from a vocal standpoint on our team really, really lit me up,” Mitchell said.
Both junior guard Maddie Vizza and sophomore guard Camille Clement missed time due to injury last year, with Vizza playing just five games. When healthy, the two sharpshooters will add important perimeter scoring off the bench for the Huskies this year. Vizza set the program record for single-season three-point percentage in her freshman year (44%) and earned an All-Rookie team selection in the process. Clement came alive near the end of last year, notably scoring eight points off the bench in a big road win over UNCW during the final week of the regular season.
In the interior, sophomore forward Asha Parker will look to build on a freshman campaign during which she shot 51.7% from the field. Junior forward Izzy Larsen will also add important utility minutes off the bench, with her ability to defend all five positions.
The Huskies brought in five transfers in the offseason — Derin Erdogan, Jaelyn Batts, JaMiya Braxton, Deja Bristol, and Halle Idowu. Erdogan (Arizona) is set to take the stage as Northeastern’s starting point guard from day one. Bristol (Virginia) and Idowu (Toledo) project to see time in the post, with Bristol as more of a traditional back-to-basket forward and Idowu looking to make her mark on the glass. Braxton (Northwestern State) will play big minutes, likely in the starting lineup as a shooting guard, and Batts (Boston College) projects as an impact wing.
With five experienced newcomers, Mitchell is banking on impact performers from day one. With Erdogan’s experience playing for the Turkish National Team, including a silver medal at this summer’s FIBA U20 Women’s European Championship Division B tournament, she projects to fill the void left by Soriano’s departure immediately.
The Huskies’ three-newcomer freshman class boasts three different skill sets: the 6’3” stretch forward Oralye Kiefer, the pass-first point guard Marian Turnbull, and the high-motor defensive wing Ariana Webb. This is Mitchell’s first full recruiting class at Northeastern, and it will be interesting to see how much playing time each of them receives early in the year as they get acclimated to the college game.
In a nonconference slate that looks like a Hockey East schedule, the Huskies primarily stay confined to New England. They open the year at Boston University, then travel down to face perennial national powerhouse UConn three days later. The Huskies face Boston College in their home opener — last year in Chestnut Hill, Northeastern nearly pulled off an upset before BC pulled away in the fourth quarter. Over Thanksgiving break, the Huskies will be down in Florida taking part in the St. Petersburg Showcase. Northeastern has two games on the schedule in the Sunshine State against Wisconsin-Green Bay and Portland, and they wrap up their nonconference schedule with a game at Stonehill, one of Division I’s newest teams.
In the recently-expanded CAA, Northeastern faces newcomer Monmouth to open their conference schedule. They play the Hawks and fellow new conference foe Hampton twice, welcome Stony Brook to the Cabot Center for their lone meeting with the Seawolves, and travel down to Greensboro to face NC A&T on the road.
The Huskies have home-and-homes with conference returners Drexel, Delaware, UNCW, and former travel partner Hofstra. Northeastern hits the road for games with Elon and Charleston, and hosts Towson and William & Mary in Boston.
A safe expectation for the Huskies is a finish anywhere from fourth to seventh in the CAA. Though the CAA preseason poll’s No. 8 ranking may disagree with that, the Huskies proved last year — when they were projected to finish last in the conference — that preseason polls mean little.
The key for Northeastern: how quickly can the newcomers mesh with the rest of the squad? Gel early, and the Huskies can surprise quite a few people. But if the chemistry takes too long to build, they could stumble in the standings and dig a deep hole.
The Huskies’ season starts on Monday with a game at Boston University. Mike Puzzanghera and Peyton Doyle will have the call before the 4:30 p.m. tip off.