Three vets, 3-pointers big for PSU women
Even in a normal year, the Portland State women's basketball program would be leaning heavily on its three most veteran contributors.
But in a year when nothing seems normal, the leadership and skill provided by seniors Kylie Jimenez and Tatiana Streun and by junior Desirae Hansen will go a long way in determining how much the 2020-21 Vikings accomplish.
Of course, so will the pandemic. On Dec. 1, Portland State shut down its women's basketball program for two weeks as a result of one postive COVID-19 test. That resulted in the cancelation of four games. The suspension of team activities came less than a week after PSU finally got the go-ahead for full-contact practices.
If and when it can play games, coach Lynn Kennedy's sixth Portland State team will rely more on quickness and athletic ability, without the size provided in recent years by Jordan Stotler and Courtney West. Offensively, a strength should be 3-point shooting. PSU led the Big Sky with its .373 3-point percentage last season and added some perimeter offense to the roster.
A fourth-year starter at point guard, the 5-6 Jimenez is an extension of the coaching staff on the floor. She has started every game since she arrived from Thornton, Colorado, and enters this season healthy after playing through nagging things as her junior season progressed.
A third-team all-conference selection after averaging 12.1 points, 4.4 assists. 3.1 rebounds and 2.3 steals as a junior, Jimenez impacts games in a variety of ways. Kennedy is encouraging her to attack the basket more — something he wants to see from his whole team.
Through 97 career games (all starts) Jimenez has averaged almost 36 minutes a game.
Coming off a knee injury, Streun raised her game significantly last season as a redshirt junior, her first as a starter. The 6-0 forward had some big games — a career-high 30 points against Montana, for example. If she can play to her potential more consistently, Streun should be one of the better forwards in the Big Sky Conference. A Bellevue, Washington native, Streun recently played two games with the Swiss national team, experience Kennedy thinks can help her growth.
"We want her to have a complete game, every game," Kennedy said.
Hansen, from Rainier, has been impactful since arriving at PSU two seasons ago. Now a junior, the 6-0 guard has improved her conditioning and worked on her all-around game in preparation for facing opponents' best defenders.
With the schedule unpredictable — most Big Sky matchups are two-game series over three days at the same site — depth will be more impactful than usual, Kennedy said.
For Portland State, improvement from sophomores Syd Schultz, Marina Canzobre and Jada Lewis will be important.
The 6-0 Schultz is a strong rebounder and the 6-1 Canzobre gets the opportunity to expand her defensive presence in the post. Lewis, who missed 18 games last season, is among the reasons PSU should be an even better 3-point shooting team.
Also key will the adjustment to college ball for five freshmen who Kennedy said have a shot to give the program a boost right away.
Guards Jenna Kilty (5-10, Oakland, California) and Itziar Ugarte (5-11, Madrid, Spain) can shoot the 3-pointer and also get to the basket, according to Kennedy, who adds that Ugarte's defensive intensity is an element the Vikings need.
Nakia Boston (5-9, Everett, Washington) is another scorer.
Forward Morgan Baird (5-11, Coquille) could be a matchup problem for opponents and Reilly Kelty (6-3, Cottage Grove) will be needed for minutes in the post.
• A planned summer trip to Spain would have helped the Vikings build chemistry. But that trip was postponed until 2021 and, like other teams in the region, the summer instead was filled with three video team meetings every week.
The players arrived on campus in late September, but restrictions limited team activities into late November.
• Portland State was picked to finish seventh in the 11-team Big Sky Conference by the coaches, and sixth in a preseason media poll. Idaho, Idaho State and Northern Arizona are expected to vie for the title.
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