Welcome (back) to the Starting Five, your rundown of the key stories in #HLWBB from the past…however long it takes to come up with five items during what’s been a pretty uneventful offseason (we didn’t even have a coaching change this time, just to offer the bare minimum of support for that statement). If you remember that I did these posts two years ago, thanks for being around that long. But if you don’t, all you really need to know is that the order is absolutely meaningless. Congrats, you’re caught up.
1. She’s just like her country—she’s young, scrappy, and hungry, and she is not throwing away her shot
We might as well begin with the news that prompted me to resurrect this series, the June 15th commitment of 2024 shooting guard Anna Hamilton to Northern Kentucky. Hamilton is 5-7, so your first thought might be that she’s a long-range specialist, though Prep Girls Hoops (which rates the rising Conner High School senior as their 20th best player in Kentucky right now) might disagree with you:
“What I love about Hamilton’s game is that you never have to question her effort. She makes constant hustle plays and is always willing to do whatever it takes to help her team win. Offensively, she is a strong, 3-level scorer. She can either score herself through pull-up jumpers, layups, floaters, 3’s, etc., or she can draw help defense to create for teammates.“
It’s going to be an interesting couple of seasons in Highland Heights as the Norse attempt to reload in the post-Lindsey Duvall era, but it would seem that they’ve found another one of those types of players that’s tended to work out pretty well for them over the last several seasons.
2. Hampton signs with Titans
Not to be outdone, Kate Achter saw NKU grab a 2024 commitment and was like “Oh yeah? Well we’ll get a player for this year!”* That player is Jaida Hampton, an East Lansing, MI native who has been pretty well-traveled since high school, playing at both Wichita State and SIUE before deciding to return to Michigan.
UDM’s release is pretty thorough on the bullet points of Hampton’s career so far, so feel free to click over there if you’re wondering about the opponent when she scored her career-high 18 points (okay you can have that one for free, it was Tulsa) and things of that nature. But more broadly, Hampton seems like the type of player that could thrive being back home(-ish) as a former highly-ranked recruit who has had something of an up-and-down career, occasionally held back by injury. She’s capable of filling it up – her stats might not look like much at first, but her per-40s from her last full season were generally in the top 25 percent nationally – on a Titans team that’s desperately needed someone like that for quite a while. At worst, Hampton will be a solid, experienced complimentary piece. But there’s also the chance of a home run swing in there somewhere.
*she absolutely did not say that
3. Dons land Mantziori
Purdue Fort Wayne also made a late addition for 2023-24 in point guard Konstantina Mantziori, who is from Athens, Greece, though she attended high school in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
She was one of the leaders of a very successful Cardinal Gibbons Chiefs program, and scouts rave about her floor leadership and ability to make plays in transition. “Make plays in transition” doesn’t necessarily mean a pass either, as the highlights below will show you. Mantziori has a quick first step to the basket and can make it work among the giants. For a team that still desperately needs depth up front, playing a little fun-n-gun isn’t a bad workaround, and the newest Don can certainly serve as the trigger in an up-tempo system.
The Mastodons return what has to be considered one of the league’s best backcourts right now, so it’s tough to say that a true freshman will immediately demand a ton of minutes even with their handful of departures. But PFW always seems to have someone who suddenly blows up in January and then it’s like “wait, they were there the whole time?” So stay tuned for that, maybe.
4. Righteous Gemstones
The day before announcing Mantziori’s signing, PFW hosted and offered 2025 prospect Nevaeh Dickman. Dickman is also being pursued by Cleveland State, but given that she’s very early in the process (and hey, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to anyone, I may be dead by 2025), for the moment, the more relevant news springing from the Dickman offer is that PFW has a bedazzled photoshoot basketball, similar to the Northern Kentucky and Youngstown State versions that have been spotted previously. Not only that, but it features the drool-inducing “The Dons” script.
Absolutely glorious. The PFW ball was apparently the handiwork of Kendal Muxlow, a former Mastodons player who became a manager following a career-ending injury, then was formally added to Maria Marchesano’s staff as grad assistant after earning her degree last month.
5. Roster the People
It would be pretty dumb to eject from this post without addressing its namesake, specifically the fact that teams have started to post their 2023-24 rosters, now that summer practices are firing up across the conference. Recruiting is fun and all, but names on a webpage make it seem real. Here’s who is up so far:
Wright State briefly posted a roster, then quickly unposted it, and if you’re thinking about asking me why a team would do such a thing, please don’t.