Geraci heads upstate and down south

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Cleveland State’s remaining outgoing transfer portal entry during the 2022 offseason finally has a new home, as grad transfer guard Isabella Geraci announced her commitment to USC Upstate on Saturday afternoon.

The Spartans, based in Valley Falls, SC and playing out of the Big South Conference, enjoyed a massive turnaround season in 2021-22. Entering the year with a streak of five consecutive single-digit win campaigns (and an underwhelming record generally since joining Division I in 2007), Upstate roared to a 22-8 overall record. The squad also went 14-4 in league play, good for a third-place finish – though they were upset by a bad UNC Asheville team in the quarterfinals of the Big South Tournament.

While all of that is encouraging on a superficial level and points towards Geraci having a chance at capping her career with a conference title and an NCAA Tournament bid, the Spartans have been battered with turnover this summer on a level that renders most of their past moot. Head coach Becky Burke, who engineered last season’s turnaround in year two of her program, departed for the job at Buffalo in April. No fewer than ten Upstate players entered the portal after that, essentially wiping out a roster that previously included star point guard Rachael Rose (the Big South Freshman of the Year) and leading scorer Chellia Watson (who followed Burke to UB).

New coach Jason Williams, who arrives fresh off a Division II Elite Eight appearance at Belmont Abbey College, certainly has some work ahead of him. He and his recently-announced coaching staff are likely counting on Geraci to bring some veteran leadership and an underappreciated toolset to a roster in flux.

A North Ridgeville, Ohio native, Geraci appeared in 108 games for Cleveland State from 2018-22, a run spanning the Chris Kielsmeier-era rise to prominence that included the 2021 WBI title and an appearance in the Horizon League championship game this past season. She largely served as a role player for the Vikings, but an extremely effective one – Geraci offered 3.6 and 2.9 steals per 40 as a sophomore and junior, and she’s also a better rebounder than most 5-8 players thanks to a healthy dose of track and field-honed athleticism.

Those two qualities made her CSU’s unofficial run stopper, a player who was able to enter games with her team on the ropes and often help stabilize things. While not a prolific scorer during her career she’s proven a capable shooter at times, as during 2020-21 when she connected on better than 40 percent of her shots from behind the arc.

She won’t be the only former Horizon Leaguer hooping for the Spartans next season, as one-time Wright State recruit Zora Fray-Chinn announced her commitment to Upstate on May 26th. The other early additions from the new staff include a pair of Swedish players, Vera Söderblom and Emmie Persson Bandh. With Geraci’s announcement, all departing players from the 2021-22 Cleveland State roster are now accounted for. Isabelle Gradwell (Minnesota) and Raevyn Harris (the NAIA’s Georgetown College) are the other newly-former Vikings set to continue their basketball careers elsewhere.

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