After their historic run to the Elite Eight, the Michigan Wolverines women’s basketball program will attempt to build on their success for the upcoming season. With the notable exit of Naz Hillmon to the WNBA, there’s room for a new star to emerge in Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines return the core of their starters, with Emily Kiser, a senior guard, being the latest to announce her return. Sophomore Laila Phelia shared her thoughts on what is in store for Michigan.
“I’m ready. I’m ready to get back to work,” Phelia said recently on the Defend the Block podcast. She also shared some differences in her approach after her first year, stating, “now, after having a year under my belt, knowing what to expect, what’s going to happen, I’m really excited because this summer I was able to take care of things differently. I feel like that’s been a pretty big thing.”
This past season as a true freshman, Phelia played in 29 games and started in 14. Phelia averaged 8.8 points per game and 2.8 rebounds per game.
When asked about how the team will be after Hillmon’s exit to the WNBA, Phelia uplifted her team by sharing their hopes for the upcoming season and the talent that remains.
“We have a really good group of girls right now,” Phelia said. “We have a deeper bench, of course. We have Leigha’s confidence, Maddie’s ability to shoot and her presence on the floor. Emily Kiser, she’s able to come back and I feel with her experience, that’s really going to help in the long run. Cam, her growth and her strength. We’re definitely going to be set. And then we have the transfer Greta coming in, and I’m really excited to be able to have her on our team.”
The Wolverines know there is still work to be done, but they are ready to get back to it. Phelia shared her confidence in her team and head coach Kim Barnes Arico, saying, “I have all the confidence in the world with our team. I feel it’s going to bring great things.”
Cazzie Russell to speak at event in Kalamazoo
The Michigan legend and former professional basketball player Cazzie Russell is set to speak at a community brunch at the Radisson Plaza Hotel & Suites in Kalamazoo for a Father’s Day weekend event through the Allen Chapel AME Church on June 17.
Russell paved the way for excellence, especially with Michigan basketball. He guided Michigan to three Big Ten titles from 1964-66, along with two consecutive appearances in the Final Four in 1964 and 1965. He is still the only member with a retired jersey number for the men’s basketball team.
Russell still shares his knowledge and wisdom through coaching. Upon the discontinuation of Armstrong State University, where he was the assistant coach for three years (2014-17), he moved on to coach at Centennial High School in Columbus before moving to Georgia. He currently serves as the special assistant to the head coach at Flagler College Saints for their women’s basketball team.
His passion for teaching and coaching is well in tune for the theme of the community’s brunch weekend he will be attending. “My Brother’s Keeper: Supporting and Sustaining Black Male Excellence” is the name of the sermon he will give. The organizer, Buddy Hannah, shared, “The main thing is to try and encourage excellence in young men of color.”
With other community leaders slated to speak at the event, the aim is to share all age groups are working to uplift and work for the younger generation of men. The event is $25 to attend and proceeds will go towards creating a scholarship for young people of color.