BELLEVILLE — After consecutive trips to the NJCAA Division I Tournament, the post-Janelle Cannon era at Southwestern Illinois College women's basketball has officially begun.
SWIC coach Mike Juenger announced Friday that Laura Litchfield from Champaign Central and sisters Claire Buechele and Paige Buechele from Lebanon are the newest additions to the Blue Storm program.
A highly touted 5-foot-9-inch guard, Litchfield averaged 18 points 5 assists and 3 steals per game this past season at Central and is being looked at by four-year schools like Syracuse, Illinois and Missouri.
But for the next two years, Litchfield will be counted to help lead a SWIC offense, which lost over 40 points a game with the graduation of Cannon and former O'Fallon High School player Danielle Duncan.
A first-team All-American selection, Cannon averaged 25 points last season for a Blue Storm team which finished 25-6 and won the NJCAA Region 24 championship. She will move on to play at Louisville.
Litchfield is a pure shooter according to Juenger.
"With Janelle and Danielle leaving, we're losing over 50 percent of our offense just with those two girls alone,'' Juenger said. "So to be able to get a player of Laura's caliber is a great boost for our team. She is basically an off guard who plays on the perimeter. She can also take it inside. She just needs to work on finishing.
"Laura has some great schools and big-time basketball programs interested in her, and in talking to her I know she really wants to become an elite player. She's very determined and just a great young lady.''
The Buechele sisters also are expected to add depth and scoring punch after tough senior seasons at Lebanon.
Paige Buechele played in just one game because of a knee injury, while Claire Buechele averaged 9 points per game, before suffering a knee injury midway through the season.
"They are both great kids who love to compete. The key is keeping them both healthy. I honestly feel both of them can play at the NCAA Division II or Division III level if not higher,'' Juenger said. "They are both great athletes and I expect they'll come in here wanting to show that they are healthy and ready to play.''
The Blue Storm will return starters Breanna Baker and LaTeesha Deloach next season. The 6-2 Baker has attracted interest from several schools including Southern California, while the 5-4 Deloach is being recruited by Memphis, among others.