Vikings land Grambling State leading scorer Maples

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Cleveland State picked up its second transfer portal addition in the last eight days on Friday, thanks to the commitment of Grambling State leading scorer Colbi Maples, 5-8 guard with two seasons of college experience. Maples scored 12.0 points per game during the 2022-23 season and fills one of the Vikings’ most pressing needs, given that three of CSU’s four portal departures are backcourt players, two of whom logged heavy minutes for the Horizon League champions.

Without a doubt, one highlight of Maples’ recently-concluded campaign was a three-day stretch during the first week of January that saw her pour in 25 points against Prairie View A&M, then top that mark two days later with a career-best 32 at Texas Southern. Across the two games, Maples shot 23-for-42 from the floor, including 5-for-13 from three, while adding seven rebounds in the PVAMU game. That effort was more than enough to earn a nod as the Boxtorow HBCU National Player of the Week, as well as SWAC Player of the Week honors.

Incredibly, there’s at least a case that those two games weren’t the most impressive thing about her season.

From November 11th through December 18th, Grambling played ten games, nine away from home, and four against high-major competition. During that obviously-brutal stretch, Maples averaged 13.8 points, including 15.5 against the four heavy hitters (one of which, by the way, was Stanford, ranked second in the nation at the time).

Grambling struggled as a collective however, dropping ten of its first 11 games on the way to a 10-20 overall record, though they were an even 9-9 in conference play (GSU’s early-season schedules, dominated by revenue-generating away games, make strong starts for the program extremely difficult, if not impossible). The Lady Tigers managed respectable losses to eventual NCAA Tournament participant Florida Gulf Coast, a Thanksgiving-weekend contest in Hawai’i that was tied entering the fourth quarter (Maples had 15 points in that game), and a four-point defeat to archrival and eventual SWAC champion Southern late in the season. On the positive side of the ledger, the 2-0 start to league play produced by Maples’ award-winning explosion, as well as a sweep of Alabama State, the SWAC’s third-place team, stand out.

The sequence of events that led to Maples’ departure was facilitated by Grambling’s dismissal of head coach Freddie Murray, the seven-season bench boss that recruited her, on March 20th. Maples then disclosed her intent to transfer on Thursday, three weeks after Murray’s replacement, Courtney Simmons, was hired, saying in a statement that she was “confident that this is the best decision for my personal and athletic growth.” The very next day, she became a Viking.

In contrast to Cleveland State’s previous transfer portal addition, Mickayla Perdue, Maples’ eligibility situation is uncomplicated. She signed with Grambling out of high school – a year late for the NCAA’s “COVID season” – and played for the Lady Tigers in 2021-22 and 2022-23. She’s a first-time transfer who will be able to play immediately and for the next two years.

Maples’ game is characterized by fearlessness, as observers have raved about her tenacity and basketball IQ. More tangibly, she has a quick first step and an innate ability to improvise and finish around the basket. She certainly isn’t afraid to take a shot, in a big moment or any other for that matter; her 361 field goal attempts last season ranked 239th in the country (only Destiny Leo’s 431 cleared that total on the Vikings’ roster). She’s a capable three-point shooter with a career percentage of just over 30 percent from deep, though few are likely to confuse her with Perdue, a national leader from that area of the floor.

As a freshman, the two-time All-Arkansas selection at Earle High School didn’t play nearly as much as she did in 2022-23, but Maples still offered glimpses of things to come with an 11-point, three-assist effort at Florida State in the fourth game of her career. She bucketed 19 with five helpers in a late-season game against Texas Southern, which stood as her career game until January.

Cleveland State’s roster now tentatively stands at nine players, thanks to the Vikings’ six returners (Leo, Jordana Reisma, Sara Guerreiro, Shadiya Thomas, Faith Burch, and Carmen Villalobos), along with incoming freshman Paulina Hernandez, and portal recruits Maples and Perdue.

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