Portland State women’s basketball fans will need to buy a program when they attend their first Vikings home game this upcoming season.
Head coach Lynn Kennedy has added two players to the 2015-16 roster, while one of the players returning from last season, 6-foot-4 center Shelby Sanders has left the program, leaving just three players that saw action for the Vikings last season on the 2015-16 roster.
Danah Haley (averaged 2.6 points, 3.6 rebounds in 16 games), CiCi West (3.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg in 27 games) and Alicia Carline (6.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg in nine games) are the lone PSU returnees on the 2014-15 stat sheet.
Two players on last season’s roster (Yaremi Mejia, Montana Walters) that did not play for the Vikings for different reasons are also back.
Mejia missed the entire season due to an injury suffered in preseason camp, while Walters sat out per NCAA rules after transferring from Santa Clara.
Hence, 12 of the 15 scholarship players on the 2015-16 roster did not play for Portland State last season, undoubtedly making the Vikings one of the most roster-turnover heavy programs in the country.
“It’s going to be a process, that’s for sure,” Kennedy told Viking Tales. “The ones we had here for summer school, they’re working hard and getting after it. That’s all we can ask. It’s going to take a little bit of time, but we’re excited about the players we have coming back and the ones we have coming in.”
The latest additions are 6-foot-4 center Courtney West, an Australian native, and 5-foot-6 point guard Kian McNair. West effectively replaces Sanders and gives PSU four players standing 6-feet or taller on the 2015-16 roster.
West played for Kennedy at Southern Oregon and, like her coach, is making the jump from Division II to the Big Sky Conference. She averaged 9.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, scoring a career high 20 points twice.
“She was an unknown coming out of Australia, but we had a relationship through the recruiting process and she decided to come to SOU,” Kennedy said. “She is a very good player. She is long and she’s unbelievably fast. She was probably our fastest player last year at SOU. She can run up and down the floor, and she has a nice jump shot.
“She has a netball background, so she has developed a great shot. She can step out and knock down threes. She can play the three or four spot at 6-4. Somebody who is long and athletic should do well there in our system. She can be the first player down the floor, that’s how fast she is.”
The addition of West gives PSU four players standing 6-foot-2 or taller on the roster.
“We knew we had concentrate on getting some height and developing our post players,” Kennedy said. “We talked about it and now we’ve actually gone out and gotten players to fill those pots for next season. We don’t need a lot of height, but to compete against the top level teams in the Big Sky, you need post players that can defend. The Big Sky has post players that can score, so we have to defend that.”
West is one of three Vikings required to sit out the 2015-16 season due to NCAA rules, joining former Medford star Ashley Bolston (Washington State) and Sidney Rielly (Santa Clara). As a result, 12 of PSU’s 15 scholarship players are eligible to play in 2015-16.
McNair starred at Salesian High School in Vallejo, Calif., a local and regional power in Northern California. Salesian was ranked among the top 20 girls’ high school teams in the country when McNair was a junior in 2013-14.
“She was on our radar as soon as I was hired,” Kennedy said. “She comes from a very good program. Salesian is one of the best programs in the nation, certainly one of the top on the West Coast. She was more of a defender on her team, but the more I watched here the last couple of years, she can get excel in our style. She can up and down the floor. She is able to cut through the defense and finish, and then defend full court. We need that kind of intensity on defense.”
McNair is one of four point guards on the 2015-16 roster, creating a potential logjam at the position since all four are eligible to play this upcoming season.
“We went up against some bigger schools to get her,” Kennedy said. “We’re excited she is part of our team. Every player we signed this spring comes from a winning program. That’s something we set out to do if we were going to change the culture and the mentality.”
— Kennedy and his three assistants blanketed AAU tournaments throughout the country in July, when basketball recruiting peaks. Last week, Kennedy watched multiple prospects at an Atlanta event, while the rest of the PSU staff traveled to Las Vegas, Phoenix, Bay Area and San Diego.
— Kennedy said the first day of preseason practice is tentatively scheduled for October 5. The Vikings will practice three straight days and then take a day off due to Kennedy’s high tempo workouts. “Practices are pretty intense and we run a lot,” Kennedy said. “We have to be in shape.” PSU will also lift weights three times a week.
— Kennedy said PSU will open the 2015-016 season with a two-game November road trip to Cal State-Fullerton and Long Beach State. After that, PSU plays a series of home games, including UC Davis and Portland. Later, they host Seattle University, travel to Oregon for the second straight year and host Cal State Northridge. The Vikings also take a two-game trip to the Mount Rushmore State, facing South Dakota and South Dakota State in consecutive non-conference matchups.
2015-16 PSU WOMEN’S BASKETBALL ROSTER (As of July 28)
Ashley Bolston, G/F (So.)*
Alicia Carline, C (Sr.)
Danah Haley, F (Jr.)
Corey James, G (Fr.)
Pia Jurhar, F (Fr.)
Michaela Kay, PG (Fr.)
Kian McNair, PG (Fr.)
Yaremi Mejia, PG (RSo.)
Ashley Torres Negron, G (Jr.)
Sidney Rielly, G (So.)*
Bree Shepard, G (Fr.)
Te Oramae Solomon, F (Jr.)
Montana Walters, PG (RSo.)
CiCi West, F (So.)
Courtney West, F/C (So.)*
* Transfer required to sit out 2015-16 season
Reach Scott Hood at ScottHood63@gmail.com