Lady Huskers Welcome 7 Newcomers

The Nebraska women’s basketball team will have a strikingly different roster in 2020-21, as Coach Amy Williams welcomes seven newcomers to a 13-player roster, including four West Coast transfers, a talented freshman post from Minnesota, a top player in the Australian National Team program and one of the best guards in the state of Nebraska.

Although much of the United States and the world shut down in mid-March because of the coronavirus outbreak, the Husker coaching staff went to work adding a wide variety of experience with four transfers joining the program since April 15. Those transfers will be added to an incoming group of three freshmen who made their commitments to Nebraska official in November of 2019.

The seven newcomers will join forces with six returning players (Kate CainTaylor KissingerSam HaibyIsabelle BourneTrinity BradyMakenzie Helms) to represent the Huskers during the 2020-21 season.

Annika (pronounced AH-nick-ah) Stewart, a 6-3 forward out of Wayzata High School in Plymouth, Minn., was the first commitment (July 31, 2019) in Nebraska’s signing class. The versatile forward with a solid post game and the ability to shoot the three enjoyed a strong senior season at Wayzata, averaging 25 points over her final 12 games of the season to earn first-team Class 4A All-State accolades.

As a senior, Stewart averaged 20.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists while hitting 65.6 percent of her two-point field goal attempts, 41.5 percent (39-94) of her threes and 89.5 percent (51-57) of her free throws. She led Wayzata to a 24-5 record with three of its losses coming to national No. 1 Hopkins. The No. 35 post in the nation according to ESPN, Stewart scored 27 points in her final game against Hopkins and Gatorade National High School Player of the Year Paige Bueckers in the 6-4A sectional championship game.

Stewart arrived in Lincoln to begin preparations for voluntary workouts on June 1, and is eager to continue her development as Nebraska prepares for 2020-21.

“I really like the coaching staff and the family atmosphere,” Stewart said. “I believe it is a special place with great support to thrive as a student-athlete. I’m excited to be a Husker!”

Stewart was joined on campus June 1 by another freshman who is extra-excited about wearing a Husker uniform. Grand Island’s Whitney Brown was a two-time All-Nebraska and Super-State selection, who earned a spot on the 2019 Class B All-State Tournament Team. As a junior, the 5-8 guard led Grand Island Northwest to the state title. As a senior, Brown averaged 17.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.0 steals to lead the Vikings back to the state semifinals in 2020.

A three-sport competitor for much of her high school career at Grand Island Northwest, Brown was also President of the Student Council and National Honor Society. She is a preferred walk-on at Nebraska for 2020-21.

“It has always been my dream since I was a little kid to be a Husker, so when I was given the opportunity it was my dream come true,” Brown said. “It will be an honor to represent my hometown with “Huskers” written across my chest.”

Nebraska’s third incoming freshman, Ruby Porter brings a load of international experience with the Australian National Team programs. Porter was a member of the Australian U17 National Team in 2018 and a member of the Australian U18 3×3 National Team in 2018 and 2019. As a member of the Sturt Sabres in Australia’s Premier League, the 5-10 guard from Adelaide averaged 15.9 points per game at the U20 national championships in February of 2019. In April of 2018, Porter averaged 16.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.6 steals in helping South Australia to a silver medal at the U18 National Championships.

“The people at Nebraska made it feel like one big family,” Porter said, “and a place where I can develop best to achieve my goals in basketball and in life.”

Porter will be the final Husker to report to Lincoln prior to the 2020-21 season. She is expected to be on campus by early August. The other 12 Huskers are all expected to be back on campus by the middle of this week, although not all will be cleared yet to participate in voluntary workouts.

“We are excited about the potential these freshmen bring,” Williams said. “We are looking forward to helping them build a great list of accomplishments in the future here at Nebraska.”

The trio of Husker freshmen will be joined by a quartet of West Coast transfers as newcomers for the upcoming year.

The most experienced transfer added by the Big Red was MiCole Cayton, who will be entering her fifth season of college basketball. Cayton, a 5-9 guard from Stockton, Calif., recently earned her bachelor’s degree from California and is expected to have at least two seasons of eligibility remaining. Cayton arrived on Nebraska’s campus on June 5 to begin preparations for the coming season with voluntary workouts.

Cayton’s long-awaited arrival in Lincoln came after originally signing a National Letter of Intent with the Huskers as a senior at St. Mary’s High School in November of 2015. However, a coaching change at Nebraska following the 2015-16 season caused Cayton to stay closer to her family home in California. She was an honorable-mention All-Pac-12 Freshman selection in 2016-17 after finishing the season as a starter to help the Bears to the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

After averaging 5.6 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals as a freshman, Cayton began her sophomore season as a starter with 13 points in the opener, before suffering a torn ACL. She missed the rest of the season and continued to battle injuries in 2018-19 and 2019-20. With her degree in hand she will be immediately eligible to compete as a graduate transfer for the Huskers in 2020-21.

“MiCole has an infectious competitive spirit and drive to be her very best,” Williams said. “Her high energy and passion along with her experience as a collegiate athlete make her a great fit for our program.”

Another talented guard originally from California, Nailah (pronounced NY-EE-luh) Dillard chose to come to Nebraska after spending her freshman season at Texas Tech. A talented long-range shooter, the 5-9 guard from Sacramento appeared in 23 games with two starts last season in Lubbock. She averaged 3.6 points and 1.7 rebounds, including 10 points on a trio of three-pointers against Oklahoma. She added nine points and a pair of threes in the next game against Big 12 champion Baylor.

Williams said Dillard can help the Huskers in a variety of areas, but will need to be granted an NCAA waiver before she can compete at Nebraska in 2020-21.

“We are very excited to add Nailah to the Husker family. She brings another confident presence from behind the arc, and she is also a player that is hungry to expand her game. She takes pride in playing on both ends of the court.”

Dillard, who averaged 22 points per game as a senior at Inderkum High School in Sacramento, said Nebraska represented everything she was looking for in a college program.

“I chose Nebraska because I wanted to play for coaches who would invest in me and value me as a person on and off the court,” Dillard said. “I wanted to play for a program that values success, and I am looking forward to playing with teammates and for coaches who love to win as much as I do.”

Dillard and Eastern Washington transfer Bella Cravens both arrived in Lincoln on June 2 to begin preparations for voluntary workouts as part of Nebraska’s Summer Bridge program. Cravens, a 6-3 forward from Laie, Hawaii, closed a strong sophomore season as an honorable-mention All-Big Sky Conference selection in 2019-20. She finished with season averages of 10.4 points and a Big Sky-best 8.5 rebounds while adding 1.7 blocks.

Cravens took her game to a much higher level in February of 2020, averaging 20.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.3 blocks and 1.8 steals while hitting 69.6 percent (32-46) of her field goal attempts over a four-game stretch (Feb. 15-27). Cravens will also need an NCAA waiver in order to compete for the Big Red in 2020-21.

“Bella is an excellent athlete who is motivated to become the best player she can,” Williams said. “We have a strong need for the things she brings to the table, and we believe her best basketball is still in front of her. We can’t wait to pour into her as a Husker.”

Nebraska’s fourth West Coast transfer, Ashley Scoggin was NU’s most recent roster addition (May 2) and the first Husker newcomer to arrive on campus (May 19) ahead of voluntary workouts.

“I chose Nebraska because of the coaching staff,” Scoggin said. “They are great people and want to win.”

A transfer from Salt Lake City Community College, Scoggin had a big redshirt freshman year for the Bruins, after battling injuries for four seasons. Scoggin averaged 10.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals in 2019-20 to earn NJCAA All-Region 18 honors. She was also a member of the NJCAA Region 18 All-Tournament Team while helping the Bruins (20-7) to the Region 18 title.

A 5-7 guard from Dallas, Ore., Scoggin hit better than 40 percent of her three-point attempts and 95 percent of her free throws in her one season on the court in Salt Lake City. She will be immediately eligible for the Huskers and is expected to have three years of eligibility remaining.

“We are excited to add Ashley to our Husker family,” Williams said. “She is a play-making guard with experience and maturity and will provide us with another consistent presence from behind the arc.”

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