Gradwell will Gopher it

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Isabelle Gradwell has big things planned for the next stage of her basketball career. B1G things, in fact, as the recent Cleveland State graduate announced her commitment to Minnesota as a grad transfer on Wednesday.

Gradwell, along with fellow 2022 departures Nadia Dumas and Isabella Geraci, was one of the last players remaining from the core group that helped elevate the Vikings over the last several years. After CSU went 10-20 in 2018-19, the team rebounded to make three Horizon League semifinal appearances in a row (along with the program’s first trip to the championship game in 12 years), along with a pair of 20-win seasons and the 2021 WBI title. The Marshalltown, IA native stands as particularly symbolic of the recent run, given that she was one of the first two players signed by Chris Kielsmeier when he became the Vikings’ head coach in 2018.

An every-game starter at forward by her senior year, Gradwell averaged 5.0 points and 3.8 rebounds in her 20.5 minutes per game in 2021-22, though those numbers don’t really do justice to her role as a versatile, high-IQ player who was consistently praised by coaches and teammates for her defense (she topped one defensive win share in each of the last two seasons, in fact) and her record on 50-50 balls. She’s also among the nation’s elite at getting to the free throw line, as evidenced by her 36.1 percent free throw rate in 2020-21, and a good shooter who connects over 75 percent of the time from the stripe. At 6-1 and carrying a broad skillset, Gradwell is adaptable to several different styles of play.

She’ll now compete for a Golden Gophers program that’s both less than four hours from home and coached by Lindsey Whalen, a certified legend of the sport whose number is retired by both the University of Minnesota and the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx. Whalen just completed her fourth season in charge at her alma mater, which saw a 15-18 overall record (7-11 in the Big Ten) – though Horizon League fans are more likely to remember the Gophers’ subsequent WNIT appearance and come-from-behind first-round win over Green Bay.

It will be a decidedly new-look roster in the Mini Apple next season though, as three of the team’s top four scorers – Sara Scalia, Jasmine Powell, and Kadi Sissoko – have departed through the transfer portal while the fourth, Cleveland native Deja Winters, has graduated. Mi’Cole Cayton and Destinee Oberg, from Nebraska and Arkansas respectively, will join Gradwell on the addition side of the ledger.

With Gradwell joining the Gophers, following Raevyn Harris’ signing with Georgetown (KY), Geraci stands as the only outgoing CSU player still available in the portal.

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