BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana women’s basketball has always had talented transfers. Remember when Pitt transfer Brenna Wise and Notre Dame transfer Ali Patberg became two of the most prominent starters in the program’s history?
This year, the program will have seven new faces, three of which are transfers including junior guard Sydney Parrish, senior guard Sara Scalia and graduate student forward Alyssa Geary.
“I think we just forecast graduation with our needs that we have,” Indiana women’s basketball coach Teri Moren said at Indiana Basketball Media Day.
“We've had a lot of success with transfers. I think the key with all that is that the kids that do decide to transfer — they want to transfer to a place where they're going to play and they're going to have an impact and a significant place on the team.”
Moren emphasized the team isn’t interested in just transfers and that a balance of transfers along with high school recruits is ideal.
“I think one thing that we have seen with the transfers is that it gives you immediate experience, college experience, which is always good, especially when you're trying to build off of but also sustain the level of success that we've had,” Moren said.
One of those transfers, Parrish from Fishers, Ind., returns to her home state after two seasons spent on the Oregon Ducks team. There, she played 1,172 minutes for the Ducks averaging 7.5 points per game. She left Oregon claiming 410 points, 169 rebounds and shooting an astounding 81.2 percent from the free throw line.
“I wasn't expecting to come back home, so being here has just been great,” Parrish said at Indiana Basketball Media Day.
“It's been great being with my friends and family. I see my parents all the time now. My grandparents are just down the road. I get to see friends and family a lot, and just representing the state of Indiana — I loved playing high school basketball in Indiana, so now I can say I get to play college basketball here.”
Parrish remembers the day when Moren would sit on the sidelines of her eighth grade basketball games, the perks of living 70 miles from Bloomington.
Following a Sweet 16 run with the Ducks her freshman season and a first round double overtime loss in the NCAA Tournament the following year, Parrish entered the portal where Moren rekindled their relationship.
“I kept my options really open, but as soon as IU contacted me, it kind of opened my head a little bit and just realized, ‘okay, I can go back home and play, I can be close to family, I can be on a winning program’, Parrish said.
“This team is really good, and everyone knows that. They're nationally known now. That was big for me.”
Parrish admitted being recruited by Moren the second time around was a bit awkward since she elected to go to Oregon the first time. The second time was the charm, and Parrish alongside several strangers turned teammates are working hard to pull together for Moren and make deep tournament runs.
“We're pretty clear on that in the recruiting process, what our expectations are and how we want to continue to build off the success, but there's still more that we want to accomplish,” Moren said. “We have goals that we have yet to accomplish like winning the Big Ten championship.”
Another new player to wear the cream and crimson is Scalia transferring from Minnesota after three seasons with the Golden Gophers. The All-Big Ten Second Team selection left Minnesota holding the program’s best single season free throw percentage of 91.5 percent from the charity stripe.
Scalia led her team in field goals made (203), threes made (111), defensive rebounds (119) and minutes played (1,160). Her run with the Golden Gophers ended with a second round loss in the NIT last season.
“Sara came into the Hall last year and stuck seven threes on us, so we know that she likes this gym, and she's told me that,” Moren said. “We're excited certainly about her firepower. A year ago she was one of the best three-point shooters in the country, so I think she's going to fit in really well, with our ability to find her.”
The Hoosiers need a good three-point shooter after losing four seniors to graduation and shooting a decent 33 percent from beyond the arc last season, which ranked seventh in the conference.
Given her defensive rebound stat, Scalia can also get scrappy on that side of the ball, something that is appealing to a defensive-minded team like Indiana.
“One of the things that we were curious about was how interested she would be in defending because you know that's such a huge part of who we are, and she's been a very interested defender for us, and she's probably been better than what we thought she would be, which is good,” Moren said.
Rounding out the transfer class is Geary, who’s also moving closer to home after four seasons at Providence. The Elmhurst, Ill. native averaged 7.2 points per game totaling 854 points and 462 rebounds in her four years with the Friars.
“I think with adding Syd and Sara and Alyssa — they're vets,” Moren said. “They're experienced. They understand the expectation. They understand the level of success we've enjoyed.
Moren said the important thing to do is not play the comparison game with last season’s team containing Patberg, Aleksa Gulbe and Nicole Cardaño-Hillary — three starters and offensive stars.
“We're not the team from last year, but we do have some interesting pieces,” Moren said. “We have some talent that we're excited about.”
In addition to practice chemistry, the players are developing outside relationships since some of them didn’t know each other. Parrish said it was awkward at the beginning, but the team has gotten pretty close. Before Indiana Basketball Media Day, the team had a bonding exercise that helped the team come together even more.
Looking ahead, the transfers, freshmen and the veterans have a little more than a month before season tipoff. The meshing of players from all different spots in their collegiate careers is to be determined.
With veteran players and Moren at the helm, the team is expecting banners in the coming years.
“I just wanted to come in and contribute as much as I can and hope to get really far in both tournaments,” Parrish said.
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