Running down former Vikings across the basketball world

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Photo: Merrimack Athletics

Here’s a quick mid-season update on how past Cleveland Staters are faring in their current basketball homes, including both transfers playing elsewhere in college basketball and those spending some of their 20s in places like Spain and Iceland while playing professionally.

Transfers

Deja Williams (G/Mercer)

Williams, the Horizon League’s 2022-23 Sixth Player of the Year, has settled into a solid groove at Mercer as an every-game starter for a Bears team that just completed their non-conference schedule with a 6-10 mark. She’s much more of a three-point specialist now than she was at Cleveland State, as her 2.1 made threes per game rank 176th nationally, though her team bests of 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game should sound pretty familiar. Against Austin Peay and Georgia Tech in early December, Williams put together consecutive 17-point efforts, including the go-ahead points in the second overtime of a win against the Governors (and notably, she played more than 46 of the 50 possible minutes in that affair).

Aminata Ly (C/Fordham)

Ly, who missed the 2021-22 season at Cleveland State, was once again struck by injury early this year and sidelined for eight games beginning in mid-November. She had been a starter for the Rams before getting hurt and collected a double-double in a loss to Manhattan on November 16th, her final contest before the unplanned hiatus. That absence finally ended on Wednesday, and she played ten minutes while adding four points and four rebounds to a win over St. Bonaventure. Fordham has managed to stay afloat without their pivot at 6-8 overall, so it will be worth monitoring to see if Ly’s presence offers a spark. Over the summer, she won an international gold medal with Senegal, contributing to a dominant effort by her country at the Francophone Games.

Raevyn Harris (C/Georgetown, Ky.)

Like Ly, Harris has also been occasionally shelved by injuries, including during a lot of the 2022-23 season, her first at NAIA powerhouse Georgetown. Things have steadied for the Maryland native a bit this year, where she’s played roughly nine minutes per game for the nation’s ninth-ranked team. In all, she averages 4.2 points and 2.4 rebounds, bolstered by a season-high 13 tallies in a rout of Union on November 24th. Georgetown is 15-1 overall and will look to mow through their Mid-South Conference schedule beginning this coming Thursday against Lindsey Wilson.

Amaya Staton (F/Merrimack)
Meghan Kenefick (F/Central Connecticut State)

Neither Staton nor Kenefick ever played significantly for the Vikings, they were both freshmen on the 2020-21 team and saw a combined 29 minutes of action before quickly leaving, but both have put together nice careers at their subsequent stops. Staton, a Lorain native, is averaging 12.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game as a starter in her third season at Merrimack and won NEC Prime Performer recognition two weeks in a row in early December. One of those awards came after a monster 26-point (on 10-for-13 shooting), nine-rebound effort in a win over Yale on December 3rd, her best game of the season.

Kenefick, coincidentally, ended up at one of Merrimack’s NEC rivals, Central Connecticut State. She’s also a starting forward, and has posted 8.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks per game. Both she and Staton are listed as seniors, though the one-time recruiting classmates of Destiny Leo also have a “COVID bonus year” available.

ZaMaria Polk (F/Wayne State)

It’s pretty difficult to find a less likely story than Polk who, like Staton and Kenefick, came to Cleveland in 2020 (though as a juco transfer from Pensacola State, not as a true freshman) and didn’t work out. She played in nine games with the Vikings, most significantly on December 20, 2020 when she started and scored nine points in 27 minutes against IUPUI. Then she completely disappeared.

Except not really. As it turned out, she entered the workforce and spent two years beginning a career as a certified nursing assistant. Then, this season, Polk returned to school at Wayne State (she’s a Detroit native) where she’s been a role player for the Division II Warriors, but a consistently-used one who chips in a couple points and a couple rebounds per outing.

“ZaMaria brings size and physicality to our team,” WSU coach Carrie Lohr said in the school’s announcement of her arrival. “She has been working really hard to get herself ready for the season, having spent two years away from the game.  She is vocal, brings positive energy and is very competitive.  We are optimistic that Z will help us defensively to protect the paint and rebound the ball.”

Professionals

Barbara Zieniewska (G/Athena 🇮🇸)

Teaming with former Arkansas and Mississippi State player Jordan Danbury on Athena in Iceland’s second division, Zieniewska is pretty heavily overqualified for her level, where a majority of the players are junior-aged. Predictably, she’s dominated, averaging 26.0 points (tied with Danbury on top of the league) and 15.3 rebounds (second in the circuit) across six games before an extended holiday break that finally ends on Saturday. On November 8th, she contributed 46 points to an absolutely ridiculous 193-31 result over ÍR, a team that loses a lot of games by scores like that. One might expect those gaudy numbers to be reflected on the team side, but they really haven’t been to this point – Athena is 5-3, good for fourth place of eight teams, though within a game and a half of the top of the table as they aim for promotion.

Taylah Levy (G/Central Districts 🇦🇺)

The 2022 graduate won’t begin her second season in the NBL1 Central until March 23rd – something to do with the Southern Hemisphere and toilets flushing in the wrong direction – but it’s worth mentioning that she will be with a new team this year after signing with the Central Districts Lions in October. The first game on the docket? The Eastern Mavericks, her old team. Should be fun.

Additionally, Levy recently re-signed with the AFLW’s Adelaide Crows for this coming fall, which will be her second season with the Australian rules football club. As a rookie, she saw increasing match action down the stretch, helping the Crows to the minor premiership (regular season title) before they bowed out in the playoffs’ preliminary final (semifinal round).

Isabelle Gradwell (G/Bembibre 🇪🇸)

Gradwell, of course, played a graduate season at Minnesota in 2022-23 and carved a nice role for herself in the Twin Cities as a three-point sniper. She initially signed professionally with PAS Giannina in Greece back in July, though she quickly left the team during its preseason, before resurfacing in Paraguay with Félix Pérez Cardozo and enjoying a successful stint at the Women’s Basketball League Americas tournament in September. FBC bowed out during the group stage at the WBLA, though Gradwell was excellent in averaging 18.0 points per game (good for ninth across the whole tournament) and 5.3 rebounds per game.

On December 21st, Gradwell signed with Spanish club Bembibre and paid immediate dividends, scoring six points the very next day to help the downtrodden club to its first win of the season after 12 losses, against Barca. She now has three games under her belt in Spain and is averaging just under 17 minutes on the floor.

Cori Coleman (G/IK Eos 🇸🇪)

Coleman is more or less the walking definition of the nomadic professional basketball life, as the 2015 CSU graduate has played in the United States, Australia, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, Morocco and Switzerland over the last eight years. Currently, the explosive three-point specialist is in Sweden, starting for an IK Eos team that’s clinging to the final playoff spot in the Basketligan dam with a 3-6 record. Coleman has been an extremely steady performer, scoring between 12 and 22 points in each of those matches, but her best game of the season came on October 21st, when she fired home 21 to go with 12 assists and eight rebounds, though her side came up just short against Alvik. Last year, Coleman jumped straight from the Swiss league into the middle of the Australian season (though in a different NBL1 league than Levy), so it will be interesting to see if something like that is in the cards again a couple months down the road.

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