There’s no denying the 2019-20 season for Mizzou women’s basketball did not go according to head coach Robin Pingeton’s liking. She knew — we all knew — the program would take a step back in the post-Sophie Cunningham era. But what transpired on the court was much deeper than Pingeton or anyone else could have predicted.
Mizzou finished just 9-22, and 5-11 in conference play. The highlight of the season was their upset home win over a ranked LSU squad, but aside from that it was a tough season. Still there was, and is, a lot of hope for the program and the upcoming season.
The Tigers were led in scoring and minutes by freshman phenom Aijha Blackwell. Blackwell, the daughter of former Mizzou footballer Ernest Blackwell, burst onto the scene averaging 15 points per game, in 29 minutes of play. She was joined in the backcourt by fellow freshman and Strafford, MO native, Hayley Frank. Frank was equally impressive in her debut season averaging 11.8 points and shooting 38% from deep.
But while the freshmen were impressive, they didn’t provide enough of what Missouri needed to get over the hump and back in NCAA tournament contention. And hopefully Pingeton has got the necessary pieces already in place with transfers Ladazhia Williams, Shannon Dufficy, and Shug Dickson. They’ll need to step into roles immediately as Missouri is replacing senior leaders Amber Smith (11.9 ppg), Jordan Chavis (7.3 ppg), Jordan Roundtree (6.5 ppg), and Hannah Schuchts (4.9 ppg).
So who is coming in?
In the fall period, Pingeton signed two players and both could factor into the rotation early.
- Top 75 forward Jayla Kelly from Parkway Central HS in St. Louis, is tough around the basket and a good rebounder. A tough low post presence has been missing from the roster for a while and Kelly should be counted on to help out right away.
- At 6-1, Sara-Rose Smith has good size for a guard, and an already decorated prep career in Australia. Pingeton now has two Aussies on the roster as Smith joins Shannon Dufficy, who transferred in from Utah State.
The spring signing period was equally fruitful, as Missouri nabbed another high profile transfer, another elite international player, and another Linthacum!
- Lauren Hansen is a former top 100 recruit out of New York. She chose Auburn out of high school and started 20 games for the Tigers last year, She’s a 5’8 point guard who has a reputation as a high level play maker with an elite level mid-range game.
- The Tigers also signed Spanish point guard Mama Dembele. From the article on her signing at MUTigers.com:
Dembele earned All-Star recognition at the 2018 U16 European Championships, as the shifty point guard helped lead the Spaniards to bronze medal finish after averaging 5.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. She played her best game of the tournament in the opening round of group play, as she scored 16 points, had six rebounds, four assists and six steals in a 96-66 win over Latvia. In the bronze medal game, Dembele dished out eight assists, grabbed five rebounds and had five steals in a 64-47 win over Turkey.
Dembele joined Spain’s national team once again in the summer of 2019 at the U18 European Championships where she averaged 3.3 points and 3.7 assists per game. In group play, Dembele scored 10 points and dished out three assists against Czech Republic. Against Israel, Dembele dished out eight dimes.
- We’re also collecting Linthacums. Last year Mizzou signed a 4th generation Tigers when Micah Linthacum committed to Missouri, and now her sister has signed up as well*:
Excited to announce that I’m committing to the University of Missouri! Thank you to my family for supporting me. Thank you to The Lady Jays and MO Phenom players and coaches for everything. I’m excited to play in the SEC as a tiger! #MIZ @MizzouWBB pic.twitter.com/OxFJ8CmJiW— Sarah Linthacum (@sarahlinthacum) April 17, 2020
Update: After publishing, we realized Linthacum is a member of the 2021 recruiting class. She’ll be on campus after next year.
Missouri has addressed their biggest weaknesses from last year with getting some ball handlers in the fold, as well as some help around the post.
Robin Pingeton still has a scholarship to give out if she wants. Here’s the scholarship count so far (keep in mind women’s teams can have 15 scholarship players versus the mens 13):
- Shannon Dufficy — R-Senior Forward
- Nadia Green — Senior Guard
Elle Brown — Senior Guard
- Shug Dickson — R-Junior* Guard
- LaDazhia Williams — R-Junior Forward
- Haley Troup — R-Junior Guard
- Aijha Blackwell — Sophomore Guard
- Hayley Frank — Sophomore Guard
- Lauren Hansen — Sophomore* Guard
- Micah Linthacum — R-Freshman Forward
- Mama Dembele — Freshman Guard
- Jayla Kelly — Freshman Forward
- Sara Rose-Smith — Freshman Guard
- Sarah Linthacum — Freshman Forward
Dickson played two seasons at Tulsa before transferring to Texas Tech, so this year is technically her fifth year, but she’s only played two seasons. It’s possible the NCAA will grant her a 6th year, so we’re listing her as a Junior for now.
It’s expected Lauren Hansen will sit out this season as a redshirt due to her transfer from Auburn.
With two really good young pieces to build around in Blackwell and Frank, Mizzou and Coach P were needing to fill in some ball handlers and some help on the block. With Dickson, Dufficy, and Williams gaining eligibility after sitting out, they’re moving in the right direction.
Women’s basketball news: #Mizzou junior and former Rock Bridge Bruin Elle Brown will not play hoops for the Tigers next year. She is joining the Tiger track and field team instead— Gabe DeArmond (@GabeDeArmond) April 18, 2020
Elle Brown will run track and not be on the basketball team.