Looking to rebound from a disappointing year, the Weber State University women’s basketball team is preparing for changes.
Following last year’s season — the winningest season in WSU history — this season’s team came away with a 13–18 record, finishing eighth in the Big Sky Conference.
In terms of subtractions, the team is loses three guards and one forward, with one player graduating and three others transferring respectively.
Deeshyra Thomas’ graduation leaves the Wildcats without a veteran point guard and team leader.
The Wildcats also say farewell to sophomores Tyschal Blake, Yarden Danan and freshman Payton Whitmore — who are all transferring to other schools.
Both Danan and Whitmore expressed their plans to play next year in either Division II or at a junior college.
Danan has gone on official visits to Dixie State University in St. George and to Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Each school has its own unique draw for Danan — she has family who lives near Eckerd College in Florida, and the head coach at DSU is JD Gustin, who was an assistant at Weber State last season.
“I really wanted to go close to family,” Danan said. “And I really want to go see what JD has there.”
Players around the country transfer for a bevy of reasons. Whitmore made her decision based on personal reasons, rather than outside influences.
“I love the coaches and I love the team,” Whitmore said. “I just feel like it wasn’t the right fit for me.”
While she is still in conversation with several schools, a likely location for Whitmore is Hawaii Pacific University. Because HPU is a Division II school, Whitmore would not have to sit out a year and could play right away next season.
“You always want what’s best for the kid and that’s this situation,” Weber State head coach Bethann Ord said. “You just wish them well.”
In November, the Wildcats announced their two new signings for the 2017–18 season. These two players now figure to be key pieces in the team’s plan for the upcoming years.
Coming out of Killeen, Texas, Shianne Johnson takes over at the guard position. Kayla Watkins, a 3-star power forward from Snohomish, Washington, joins Johnson on the new roster.
Both of them will join the team in late June after they graduate from high school.
The incoming freshman will have additional opportunities by joining Weber State in the summer rather than taking the summer off and beginning school in the fall.
“They get a boost for school and then basketball. We’re able to work them out, and they’re around for team bonding things,” coach Ord said.
Not only are the Wildcats expecting contributions from the newcomers, but there are also players on the roster who could take another leap forward in their careers.
One player who is expected to play a large part in next season is 6-foot-6-inch freshman Gina O’Brien.
After coming into her first year undersized, she has spent her time getting stronger and more physically prepared for regular minutes.
Despite the loss of three valued players, the remaining Wildcats aim to bring this team back to the top of the Big Sky.