New players give Mesa women a ‘fresh start’
After missing the NCAA playoffs the past two years, next season’s Colorado Mesa women’s basketball team will have more new faces than familiar ones.
CMU coach Taylor Wagner wrapped up a 10-player recruiting class recently by signing a junior college power forward and three high school players to go with another half-dozen recruits.
“We’re excited,” Wagner said. “It’s going to be a good year; a fresh start.”
Plus, former Grand Junction guard Sydni Brandon, who played at Fort Lewis two years ago before leaving that program and running track for the Skyhawks last year, is transferring to CMU, where she plans to play basketball and run track.
“She hasn’t played for a whole year so it’s going to take some time getting back into it,” Wagner said of the 5-foot-7 point guard. “We’ll see how it works out; I’m just waiting for the fall to see how the pieces come together and see who’s going to rise to the top.”
The four newest recruits share a couple of traits: versatility and work ethic.
“They’re all hard-working, that’s the thing we need the most,” Wagner said. “We need to get back to being that team that fights for every possession. That’s what I like about all of these young kids. It’s not only next year, but years to come.”
Wagner looked to Salt Lake Community College, which played in the NJCAA national semifinals, for some immediate help in the post, landing 5-10 power forward Karina Brandon. Brandon, who is from Las Vegas, Nevada, was a second-team all-region player for the Bruins, averaging five points and four rebounds per game last season.
“She’s going to have to come in and play and give us more depth at that forward spot, which I think she can do,” Wagner said. “She’s going to be able to bring some toughness; I think we struggled guarding some of those power forwards, and she’ll be able to help (contain) them next year.”
The Mavericks didn’t have a true power forward last season, and they lost Nicole Archambeau, who is transferring to Colorado School of Mines.
Only eight players will be back from last year’s team, Wagner said.
Senior point guard Erin Reichle is coming off a second surgery on her right ankle, but Wagner said it went well and Reichle told him it feels better than it has in years. Sophomore backup point guard Holly Brooks is also returning, along with junior guards Jaylyn Duran and Kelli Van Tassel, senior center Ma’ata Epenisa and sophomore center Tori Catlett.
Sophomore forward Kassidi Day, who saw limited minutes last season, and junior guard Shannon Patterson, who sat out after transferring from CSU-Pueblo, will also be in the mix.
Valentine Desreumaux, a 6-foot wing from Wasquehal, in northern France, played in the final four of the U18 French National Championships and caught Wagner’s eye from a recruiting service.
“She’s a long, athletic guard, someone we think can help us,” he said. “I think she’s pretty versatile, can play a couple of positions for us. Offensively I think she’s going to fit in, can score in different ways.”
CMU found inside depth in Tucson, Arizona, signing 6-1 post Kelsey Siemons.
“She can play with her back to the basket, but she can step out and shoot it,” Wagner said of the Arizona player of the year from Catalina Foothills High School. Siemons scored 1,262 points and had 1,153 rebounds in her career, averaging 13.5 points and 8.7 rebounds as a senior.
“She’s a different type of player than Tori and Ma’ata; they’re right there on the block and she can do a little bit more all over the floor.”
Rounding out the class is 5-8 guard Sydney Prey from Golden High School, an honorable mention all-state pick who finished in the top five in scoring and assists in the Jeffco League. She also plans to play golf at CMU.
“She’s another wing who can shoot it and can get to the rim,” Wagner said. “She’s real crafty, a real smart player, someone I think will be able to come in here and help us.”
Wagner looked for players who will embrace the demands of college basketball.
“We want people who want to compete, we want people who want to win and be a great student. That’s what we expect,” he said.
“We’ve got a couple of key kids who will help set the tone, but it’s got to be every day. You can’t pick and choose when it’s going to be convenient.”