Author Topic: WBB new players  (Read 655 times)

Offline Double ET

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WBB new players
« on: June 25, 2022, 08:51:43 AM »
From today’s Tribune/Vindy:

Once AAU teammates, 4 former WV HS stars back together at YSU

LOCAL SPORTS
JUN 25, 2022

JOEL WHETZEL
Staff writer
jwhetzel@tribtoday.com
 
 

Submitted photos / From left, Dena Jarrells, Paige Shy and Emily Saunders sit together during an AAU game as members of the West Virginia Thunder. That trio, plus fellow teammate Shay-Lee Kirby, have rejoined forces at Youngstown State.

YOUNGSTOWN — Down in the hills of the Mountain State, a prominent AAU program — the West Virginia Thunder — has been churning out plenty of Division I talent over the last several years.


Among the successful teams to come through the Thunder program was the Cla$$ of 2019, which included plenty of eventual D1 players.

Now, four of them — Paige Shy, Emily Saunders, Dena Jarrells and Shay-Lee Kirby — have reunited in Youngstown after going their respective ways for their collegiate careers.

“It kind of seems so surreal and crazy, like no way that’s going to actually happen,” Shy said. “And now here we are again. It’s still so surreal, and I can’t wait for us to all get out there. It’s going to be so much fun.”

Shy started the trickle into Youngstown State a year ago when she joined the Penguins from her hometown school, Marshall University. In her debut season with the Penguins, she played in 29 games and scored 8.1 points per contest.


She’s especially excited, given that this core had a stellar final year together before departing for their respective schools. Jarrells, who was Shy’s high school teammate at Huntington St. Joseph’s, estimates the AAU group lost just three games in their final two seasons together.

“We had a crazy good season our last year. We didn’t lose many games, and it was super fun,” Shy said. “The chemistry we had, it says a lot that we’re here now. You can tell how close we were, and that was three or four years ago. Here we are again, still talking as best friends. So I feel that the chemistry we had is really important, and it’s going to carry over to the team this year.”

Jarrells was the first of the 2022 transfers to make her decision, which she announced April 4. She previously played at Chattanooga, where she spent three seasons. In her final season last year, she scored 10.4 points and added 2.7 a$$ists in 30 minutes of playing time. She appeared in 28 games.

As it turns out, YSU was Jarrells’ first D1 offer back in high school.

“The timing just didn’t add up for me,” Jarrells said. “So I feel like all along, maybe if things didn’t go well at (Chattanooga), I could end up back at Youngstown because of the experience in the recruiting process with them I had been through the previous time. I feel like I already had a relationship with (the program), so it wasn’t something I had to build up.”

That relationship, along with YSU’s recent successes, are what caught her attention when she entered the portal — particularly because of the amount of winning she had become accustomed to in high school. In addition to the AAU program’s successes, Jarrells and Shy won two Cla$$ A state championships and finished as runners-up the other two years of their high school careers.

After her coach at Chattanooga, Katie Burrows, stepped down after posting a 46-68 mark in four seasons and a 7-23 season in 2021-22, Jarrells felt it was time for a change.

“I was going through a tough situation at Chattanooga with my coach leaving and everything, and when it comes down to it, I was ready to spend the last few years (of my career) in a winning program. That’s what I was looking for,” Jarrells said. “Most of the schools that contacted me, I kind of let them go because they were in the rebuilding stage, too. I didn’t want to return to something I just left, and Youngstown really caught my eye.”

So far, she feels the fit is right.

“I feel like we have a great group as far as everyone on the team goes, and I’ve gotten to know the girls. I really feel like I fit in here,” she said.

Two weeks after Jarrells made her announcement, YSU announced it had added Kirby from Austin Peay. A graduate of Parkersburg, Kirby was the West Virginia Player of the Year in the 2018-19 season and scored 7.2 points per game in the 30 contests she appeared in last season with the Governors. She won back-to-back Cla$$ AAA state titles at Parkersburg High.

The transfer process was a new one to Kirby — much different than getting recruited out of high school.

She fielded a few calls early on, but her end goal was to head closer to home. Parkersburg is just under three hours from Youngstown.

“Once (YSU) reached out, and obviously seeing that Paige was already here — to come home and play with your best friend, that’s something I’m looking forward to,” she said.

Kirby figures to fit into YSU well, as she features as a defensive and 3-point specialist. She knocked down nearly 40 percent of her shots from long range last season.

Of rejoining her AAU teammates, she added, “There’s really nothing better. There are so many young girls that are looking up to this, and it’s just an inspiration.”

Finally, on April 21, Saunders announced her decision to transfer to Youngstown State from SEC powerhouse Tennessee and bring the talented quartet back together in full.

“When I entered my name in the portal, it was instantly hectic. My phone was blowing up when I didn’t give my number. I gave my email, and half of that was my email going crazy around the time of finals, so it was really hectic,” Saunders explained.

In addition to YSU, she was considering Big Ten programs Illinois and Indiana as well as Big 12 program Oklahoma.

“The one thing Youngstown definitely had over those schools was the fact I had an opportunity to come here and play with my best friends,” Saunders said. “I just feel like they have a good thing going here, and the program is on the come-up. They won the regular season (Horizon League title) last year, which is obviously very attractive to recruits, and the coaching style, I love it. It’s a completely different thing than I’m used to, but it’s just really exciting because it’s a brand new chapter.”

Saunders was perhaps the most decorated recruit of the four in high school. A product of Wyoming East, also the alma mater of recently graduated Penguin Gabby Lupardus, Saunders was a four-star prospect and the Gatorade West Virginia Player of the Year in 2019, among plenty of other accolades. Wyoming East won a state title and finished as runner-up in three of Saunders’ seasons there.

Saunders entered the portal knowing what she was looking for.

“I want to win, I want to play and I want to have fun,” the 6-foot-5 forward said. “They win here, and they play really, really well.”

Then, too, there was the opportunity to rejoin her former teammates.

“That last game (with the other three), I will never forget it. We were crying tears because we had lost, and it was just sad because it was the last time I was going to play with these girls,” she said. “Flash forward four years later, and we’re back together. We won a lot when we were together, and we had that chemistry on and off the court. I feel like that’s definitely something the fans can look forward to, because we’re good when we’re on the court together, and on top of what’s already here — very talented — so there’s a lot to look forward to.”

Saunders and Lilly Ritz figure to make perhaps the best 1-2 frontcourt punch in the Horizon League this year, as Ritz is coming off a season in which she averaged 17.8 points and 10.5 rebounds in league play and earned All-Horizon League First Team and All-Defensive Team honors.

“I feel like Lilly and I together, that’s going to be tough (for opponents),” Saunders said. “And as a whole (team), I feel like the chemistry is there. Off the court, the chemistry is 100 percent; on the court, the chemistry is 100 percent. It’s going to be amazing.”

All of this said, none of the newcomers are taking anything for granted and know putting in the work will determine their success more than anything.

Kirby noted, “Playing-wise, practice is going to show everything. Nothing is (given). They said just come in and work, and your spot will be determined by what you do in practice.”

Saunders added, “The work ethic here with these girls is unmatched at any school I was really talking to. Since I’ve been here, we’ve gotten in the gym every single day. Dena has had practices in the mornings, and I work in the morning, but she’ll still come to the gym with me every night. That just proves how much this game is important to us, and how much we want to win.

Offline YsuPride

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Re: WBB new players
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2022, 05:12:52 PM »
Good story.  It's going to be nice to watch both teams play.   Both the men's and women's team hit a home run with the transfer portal.   Look forward to the upcoming season for both.