Louisville backcourt building chemistry with talented core

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Chemistry and competition will be paired together in a backcourt filled with talent for Louisville women’s basketball in 2020-21.

“It’s going to be great,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “I’m really excited about the possibilities of this team. The chemistry has been fantastic, like I always say, we haven’t played a game. There haven’t been minutes passed out.”

Dana Evans is the reigning ACC Player of the Year heading into her senior year after averaging 18.0 points last season. The 5-foot-6 point guard led the team in assists and made the most 3-pointers in the ACC as a junior.

Alongside of Evans, Elizabeth Balogun is another returning starter to Louisville’s backcourt after averaging 8.1 points and 4.6 rebounds as a sophomore.

Mykasa Robinson became a key contributor to the backcourt during her sophomore year while Norika Konno was a part of the rotation before a season-ending injury midway through the year.

Konno had knee surgery before she returned home to Japan, but is now back on campus. Although she isn’t 100% right now, Walz said Konno is feeling really well and he expects her to be back to full strength in the coming months.

Two members of Louisville’s backcourt practiced with the team last season, but will be making their first appearances in a Cardinal uniform this year.

Nyah Green, a 6-foot-1 guard, was a McDonald’s All-American who redshirted in 2019-20. Kianna Smith transferred from CAL, but was forced to sit out last season due to NCAA transfer rules.

Louisville’s additions to the backcourt plenty of talent and depth.

Ahlana Smith was the 2019-20 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I Women’s Basketball Player of the Year at Gulf Coast State. Hailey Van Lith was the top-ranked guard by espnW Hoopgurlz in the 2020 recruiting class and a McDonald’s All-American.

Merissah Russell, a 5-foot-11 guard from Ontario, signed with the program in November.

“I can see a lot more four-guard lineup at times, possibly five guards, just to really mix some things up,” Walz said.

While Louisville’s backcourt has proven experienced mixed with new talent, the team’s frontcourt will look to fill the starting roles of graduated forwards Kylee Shook and Bionca Dunham.

Elizabeth Dixon played 14.4 minutes a game, averaging 4.4 points and 3.6 rebounds as a sophomore. Molly Lockhart appeared in 10 games as a redshirt freshman.

Olivia Cochran, a 6-foot-1 forward that was ranked as the fourth-best forward in the 2020 recruiting class by espnW Hoopgurlz, can be a contributor to the frontcourt as a freshman.

“Olivia will be a big one for us because we don’t have as much post depth with the graduation of Kylee and Bionca,” Walz said. “She competes, she loves the game, hopefully she will be able to come in as a freshman and give us quality minutes in the post.”

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