The 2021-22 Ball State Women’s Basketball season will be different. Nobody has a labeled position, and newcomers are not referred to as such.
After losing key players from the 2020-21 season, the Cardinals have added seven players via the transfer portal or freshmen from the 2021 recruiting class.
At the end of the 2020-21 academic year, the Cardinals lost forward Oshlynn Brown, forward Krystal Rice, guard Essence Booker, guard Maliah Howard-Bass, guard Ella Skeens and guard Katie Helgason to graduation or the transfer portal.
With themes of culture and family present throughout, the Cardinals hope to hit the ground running in wake of losing several pieces from 2020-21. The Cardinals filled these missing pieces through freshman Ally Becki, freshman Marie Kiefer and freshman Madelyn Bischoff. Ball State also added graduate student Chyna Latimer, junior Skyla Knight, sophomore Makenna Burch and junior Jazmyn Turner through the transfer portal.
Redshirt Anna Clephane averaged a career-high 12.2 points per game in 2020-21 and said she is excited for the new elements the freshmen and transfers bring to the Cardinals.
“It’s a really different dynamic this year,” Clephane said. “Everyone can do everything. We don’t have positions, and we have a whole new look.”
Senior Thelma Dis Agustsdottir started all 25 games in 2020-21, averaging 11.8 points per game and pacing the Cardinals in 3-pointers made with 55 . Dis Agustsdottir said the Cardinals’ new players have fit right in so far.
“I think it only makes our team better — they’re great players and great people,” she said. “How close we all are and how we all want to see each other succeed is a big factor.”
Junior Sydney Freeman and Dis Agustsdottir said spectators wouldn’t be able to tell the Cardinals’ newcomers are new to the team based on their play on the court. However, Freeman also said she believes Ball State’s veteran leadership will play an important role in helping acclimate the newcomers.
“We feel like we need to be the voices and teach them the ropes, even if it’s just by our actions,” Freeman said. “We built a culture this summer of what we wanted our team to look like, and I think that culture will stand out.”
Clephane and Freeman each mentioned the positionless identity as a new strength of the Cardinals. With no assigned positions, Clephane believes the Cardinals can flourish by exploiting favorable matchups against opponents.
“It’s no longer guards and post, or starters and non-starters or newcomers and returners,” Clephane said. “It’s just our team, and I think that’s really beneficial.”
Head coach Brady Sallee said not using the term “newcomers” brings all his players together as one. He also said the Cardinals are positionless because of their offensive versatility.
“We thought it was the best way to stay consistent with our message, which is ‘team first’ and being bought into our culture,” Sallee said. “By using returners and newcomers, we were creating two different groups. The positionless piece is more about how we want to play offense.”
Freeman also said she believes everyone on the floor for the Cardinals can contribute in their own way, whether it be through shooting or defending. For Sallee, he said he is proud of the way Clephane, Dis Agustsdottir and Freeman have led the charge.
“I’m excited,” Sallee said. “For me, this is about sitting back and watching them do their thing. Anna has been through-the-roof good. Thelma has offered a lot of really good play. Sydney has been what we need her to be.”
Sallee also mentioned Becki, Latimer and sophomore Ivet Subirats as players who have stood out early.
“I think this team has aspirations of cutting down the nets and winning a championship,” Sallee said.
Despite Brown’s absence, Dis Agustsdottir said she believes this season could serve as a new era for Ball State.
“I think you could say so — losing [Oshlynn Brown] was tough, but I think we are all capable of stepping up,” Dis Agustsdottir said.
In their season opener Nov. 9, the Cardinals defeated Milwaukee 84-75 in overtime. Becki scored a team-high 17 points, and the victory served as Sallee’s 300th career win. However, even after his team’s season-opening win, Sallee reiterated the Cardinals’ mindset remains the same as Ball State prepares to face Purdue Fort Wayne Nov. 12.
“All we’ll worry about is being 1-0 on Friday,” Sallee said.