McKendree University women’s basketball coach Kari Kerkhoff is eager to see how her first recruiting class pans out.
Kerkhoff, whose team finished 12-17 overall and 7-11 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference in her first season, added six players, all freshmen, to the Bearcats’ mix for 2016-17. McKendree qualified for the GLVC Tournament for the first time.
Andranae Wash, a 5-foot-8 point guard from Cardinal Ritter High in St. Louis, was the final signee. Wash averaged 12.8 points, nine rebounds, 3.7 assists and 3.5 steals for the Lions, who finished 20-7. Wash scored 1,138 points in her career, third all-time at Cardinal Ritter.
“She had a phenomenal career at Cardinal Ritter,” Kerkhoff said. “She brings a level of athleticism to this freshman class that we’re excited about. She’s very quick with the ball in her hands. She has a really quick first step that can (help her) get to the basket and create for others. (Point guard) was a crucial spot for us to fill in the spring signing period.”
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McKendree graduated its starting point guard, Kelsee Ennis, and Kerkhoff expects Wash to immediately step into Ennis’ spot.
“I’m going to put her out there right away,” Kerkhoff said. “I think she has that ability. I think she’s got to learn the game a little bit more. I’m willing to go through some of those freshman mistakes with her and teach her. She’s got high potential of being an impact player.
“The biggest thing for Andranae is just that leadership part on the court. She has the basketball IQ. She reads situations very well. I just want to get her a little bit more vocal out there on the court. She’s going to be a fun one to way. I think people will enjoy watching her play.”
The other five players signed in November:
▪ Shayli Florine, a 6-2 center from Galesburg High who averaged 14.8 points and 6.8 rebounds and shot 58 percent from the floor. She finished with 1,261 career points.
“She’s going to be a force inside to reckon with,” Kerkhoff said, adding that Florine has an excellent chance of being a starter.
▪ Megan Jensen, a 6-0 center from St. Francis Borgia High in Washington, Mo., who averaged 15 points and 10.1 rebounds while shooting 60 percent from the field.
“I love her toughness,” Kerkhoff said. “Megan has the ability to go inside and out for us. She has good size and and has great physicality on the inside.”
▪ Jordan Heberg, a 5-10 shooting guard from Plainfield North High in Romeoville who could start next to Wash in the backcourt.
“She averaged about 18 points per game. She’s a shooter with a scorer’s mentality,” Kerkhoff said. “She can shoot the 3 and hit the pull-up jumper. She has a great combination of speed and athleticism and is explosive going to the basket.”
▪ Madison Hart, a 5-11 guard from Oak Creek High in Oak Creek, Wisc., a versatile performer who averaged 11.2 points and 4.6 rebounds to lead the Knights to a 23-4 record.
“We’re super-excited about getting another Wisconsin player,” Kerkhoff said. “There’s great basketball in that state. Madison comes from a program that’s won multiple state championships. She understands what it takes to win on and off the court. She can shoot from the outside but can maybe take advantage of posting up a smaller guard. I really like her size.”
▪ Haley Ahr, a 5-11 forward from Woodstock North High, who averaged 16.2 points and nine rebounds while becoming the school’s career leading scorer with 1,032 points.
“Haley is a competitor,” Kerkhoff said. “You ask her to run through a wall and she’s going to do it. She ended up being the top (career) rebounder at her high school and also was (first) in career scoring. She was the prime player there, so she was constantly being double-teamed and people were keying on her.
“She’s going to be a blue-collar worker for us. She has the ability to shoot the outside shot and take it to the basket and post up. You better watch out if you’re in the bottom part of the stands. If there’s a ball in that direction, she’s coming after it.”
Kerkhoff said the biggest objectives was to add players from winning programs.
“I feel like we filled that,” she said. “I’m definitely going to be looking for them to come in and compete in practice and put pressure on our veterans. We’ll have some very competitive, get-after-it practices to compete for those minutes on the court.
“These young ladies are phenomenal in the classroom and even better people.”