The Idaho State women’s basketball team has just about every rotation player from a year ago returning in 2020-21, but even a set lineup can add depth.
That’s the area the Bengals addressed this week with the national signing period opening.
Over Wednesday and Thursday, Idaho State announced two junior college transfers in Finley Garnett from College of Southern Idaho and Lili Bevao from Reedley College (California).
The two join guard Mykah Anderson from Chandler High School in Arizona, who was also announced Wednesday, and post Zoe Hutchings from Montesano High School in Washington state, who signed in December, to form ISU’s 2020 recruiting class.
“I just feel relieved that we got a lot of it done before everything hit, before the whole coronavirus hit,” ISU head coach Seton Sobolewski said. “I think we’ve really added some great depth coming off the bench.”
The two junior college transfers are expected to compete right away, adding to ISU’s envious depth at the guard positions.
Garnett, originally from Huntington Beach, California, averaged 7.8 points and 4.7 rebounds for CSI in 2019-20, shooting 38.9% from the field and 33.8% from 3-point range.
Although she’s listed as a guard at 5-foot-9, Sobolewski, who first spotted Garnett at CSI’s conference tournament, envisions a hybrid role for her.
“She’s going to play a lot, I think, as an undersized (power forward), stretch 4 for us,” Sobolewski said. “She’s physical and can bang in the post and will work really hard at it. ... She’s just a great utility player.”
Garnett’s ability to fill that role might be pivotal. The Bengals return one player listed as taller than 6 feet — 6-foot-2 starting center Ellie Smith — and just three forwards with any game experience (Smith, Delaney Moore and Montana Oltrogge, although Oltrogge, listed at 6 feet, is much more of a perimeter player).
Despite adding three more guards in this week’s signing period, Sobolewski is confident in his team’s ability to survive in the post — partially because he trusts players like Callie Bourne and now Garnett, ostensibly guards, to bang with bigs if they have to, and partially because of the direction the Big Sky Conference is heading.
“In our conference, we’re not playing with a lot of tall players,” Sobolewski said. “People don’t play with two 6-foot-2 post players. You’ve got a 6-1 kid or a 6-2 kid playing your 5, and then everybody else is guards. If we were in a different conference, it might be different. If you’re in the Pac-12 or the Big 12, like when we played Oklahoma State, they’ll play two 6-2 players that can play inside and out.”
Bevao, the other junior college transfer ISU brought in, is a pure outside scorer. Listed at 5-foot-6, she led Reedley with 15.6 points per game last season as a sophomore after losing her entire freshman season to an ACL tear.
Originally from Reunion Island, a French department east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, Bevao shot a mind-boggling 10.9 3-pointers per game for Reedley, making 32.5%.
“That was out of necessity for her and her team,” Sobolewski said. “Not a lot around her, and they unfortunately had some injuries, so she had to put up a lot of shots. ... She needed to put it up, and their coach needed her to score. At one point when we first started recruiting her, she was shooting over 40%, close to 45% from the 3, and then it tailed off a little bit towards the end of the season. But she has great shooting ability.”
ISU held off interest from Fresno State and Cal State Bakersfield, among others, to secure a commitment from Bevao, who didn’t visit Pocatello before signing.
Anderson might not see as much time as the two transfers next season, but the guard is one for the future after averaging nearly 12 points per game for a good Chandler High team.
Like Garnett and Bevao, she brings athleticism — she’s the daughter of former Utah and Denver Broncos running back Mike Anderson — and shooting.
“I thought she could really defend, pick up the ball, stay in front of the ball,” Sobolewski said. “She can shoot the ball well from the 3. She’s athletic enough to get to the basket and finish even though she’s more of a shooter than anything. ... The athleticism and the ability to shoot is there to really develop a good player.”
If Estefania Ors receives another year of eligibility, Anderson, the 16th player on ISU’s roster, will be a walk-on in 2020-21 before getting a scholarship the year after.