116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa women’s basketball is eager to see the 2022-23 version of itself.
After a 23-win campaign a season ago that included a second-round WNIT appearance and ultimately the graduations of All-Missouri Valley Conference honorees Karli Rucker and Bre Gunnels, playing time, bigger roles and leadership are all for the taking with these Panthers.
And while roles and playing time are largely yet to be settled, UNI Coach Tanya Warren made it clear at Thursday’s annual media day that it’s point guard Maya McDermott’s time to lead the offense.
“This is Maya’s team. She played behind a four-time All-Missouri Valley Conference point guard and she has been patient and Maya is ready for this to be her team,” Warren said. “She has also had a very good offseason. As small as she is, she has gotten stronger. She shoots the ball extremely well. Very good in transition as you know, but what makes Maya so, so very good is her ability to make those around her better.”
Warren went on to suggest McDermott could prove to be as impactful as some of the program’s more highly-decorated point guards, but ultimately, the 16th-year coach said sophomore forward Grace Boffeli — who’s coming off a redshirt freshman campaign where she averaged 8.6 points per game — will be the focal point of their offense.
“We will be led by Grace Boffeli. (She) does a terrific job for us,” Warren said. “Has really expanded her game — is now shooting the 3 with consistency. (Boffeli) just plays hard. You’re not going to outwork that kid.”
Elsewhere in the Panthers backcourt, senior Kam Finley and sophomore Emerson Green offer experience and production.
The duo combined for nearly 20 points per game last season and Warren has high expectations for the two, particularly Green, who she said looks better than ever after a productive offseason.
“Emerson Green has probably been the one that has impressed me the most,” Warren said. “She’s very lean, she’s running well, she’s rebounding, she’s defending, she’s shooting the 3 well and she’s very good off the bounce. Really has done a nice job of improving her mid-range game, which makes her really hard to guard.”
Like usual, Warren touted the importance of depth and the need for there to be no drop-off when she goes to the bench.
Key reserves include senior forward Cynthia Wolf, sophomore guard Kayba Laube, true freshmen Ryley Goebel and Taryn Wharton, along with freshman transfer Ellie Foster and junior transfer Rachael Heittola.
A new offense also figures heavily into the storylines to watch for Warren’s Panthers.
“This season is going to be a completely new season. We have a new offense. We have a completely new way to score,” Boffeli said. “Our pace is different. Instead of running so many plays it’s more a motion and what you see is open (is your) read instead of a set play (where) you’ve got to score from that.”
UNI opens its 2022-23 season on Nov. 7 at McLeod Center against St. Thomas.