Heading into the second year under the guidance of head coach Maria Marchesano, Purdue Fort Wayne is looking to take a big step in the rebuild. Optimism is high as the Dons return nine players, including the top 8 from the rotation a year ago. Marchesano has added a couple key transfers and a very solid incoming freshmen class that will be competing for key minutes right away.
A year ago, PFW improved to nine wins overall and seven in the Horizon League after winning just one game overall during the 2020-21 season before Marchesano arrived. This year’s squad brings back 57 of the 60 points per game from a year ago. The 2021-22 Dons finished ninth in the Horizon and were knocked out of the league tournament by Robert Morris, 70-56.
Marchesano has been known for her high-powered offenses throughout her coaching career and this year’s Dons will be looking to improve on the 60 points per game average from a year ago. Several players have the ability to have a big night, knock down shots and create a balance that is tough to guard. A big key for the Mastodons will be how fast the newcomers adapt to a new system and mesh with the returners.
Destinee Marshall—Transferred from Radford after spending two years playing in 38 games and starting 17 at point guard. Marshall is a tough, athletic guard that has a great feel for the game. Her athleticism and vision will create shots for herself and others as well as wreaking havoc on opposing point guards.
Sylare Starks—Starks returns as the leading scorer from a year ago (11.7ppg), including a 33-point outburst against her former team, Detroit Mercy. She can fill it up in a hurry and will have more help on the offensive end which should only help get her more open looks.
Ryin Ott—Ott began her PFW career last year making the All-Freshmen HL team while averaging nearly 9ppg and 4rpg. She was hampered by a couple of different injuries after a very impressive start to the season. Ott will be looking to improve on her solid all-around game as a sophomore.
Shayla Sellers—Sellers returns for her senior season (although 1 more covid year remaining) after performing at a third-team All-Horizon League clip. Sellers was asked to do a little bit of everything for the Mastodons last year. She often led the team in multiple offensive categories, meanwhile guarding the other team’s best offensive player, regardless of position. Sellers is the ultimate competitor and leader that the Dons need and is poised to have a BIG 2022-23 season.
Sydney Graber—Graber transfers in after spending two seasons at Central Michigan. Graber is coming home. A Fort Wayne native (Homestead HS) and high basketball IQ, Graber will provide much needed size (6’2) and basketball savvy. Graber has the ability to finish around the rim and face up opposing posts, but more than anything she is a winner and brings a competitive edge to the Dons’ lineup.
Amellia Bromenschenkel—Started 16 games last year as a freshman and showed great improvement as the season went on. Bromenschenkel seemingly always is in the right place at the right time keeping possessions alive with tips, rebounds and deflections. She looks to continue her improvement from 3pt range after knocking down 32% a year ago.
Other Key Returners/Newcomers
Riley Ott—Returning for her fourth season after starting all 15 games she appeared in during 2021-22, before a hand injury ended her season. Ott brings a wealth of experience starting 61 of 65 games over the last 3 seasons. Ott will not have to handle the ball nearly as much with the addition of Marshall, which should open up the 3pt line for her. A knockdown shooter (42.6% from 3) and relentless worker, Ott has the ability to space the floor on offense and shrink it on defense.
Aubrey Stupp—Stupp stepped up after some injuries last season, having several big games the 2nd half of the season. Often undersized in the post, she plays tough and bigger than she is. She averaged 8.7ppg and 5.3rpg last season and improved her range as the season went while knocking down nearly 85% from the charity stripe.
Audra Emmerson—Emmerson played all 28 games last year and improved throughout her freshmen campaign. She has a high basketball IQ and will provide solid depth at the guard position.
Jazzlyn Linbo—Linbo was showing signs of breaking out with a double-double her last game before a foot injury shut down her season. At 6-2, Linbo is a tough post defender and is getting better and better finishing around the rim.
Klea Kaci—Kaci, a freshmen from Toronto, Canada is an ultra-talented scorer that the rest of the Horizon League will know about soon enough. How fast she adapts to the pace of D1 basketball and the strong, tough guards in the Horizon League will be interesting to watch. However, when you step in the gym, her ability is difficult to miss.
PFW will challenge some of the top teams in the league this season and be a contender to finish in the top half of the HL if key pieces can stay healthy and the transfers and key freshmen can mesh with the returning players to provide depth that the ‘Dons were sorely missing last year. Sellers and Starks lead a well balanced group that should be much improved on both ends. The added size of Graber and a healthy Linbo will help the interior defense. It will be interesting to see how the minutes are split up with the top 10-12 players. The culture Marchesano and her staff have built in just over a year is rather impressive. The change of attitude around this program, with this team, university and city is on the rise and this squad will be fun to watch. There is no question that the ‘Dons are poised to make a step up and continue on a positive note in the rebuild. The question is how big of a step will that be?
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