A new season in collegiate sports always guarantees some new faces, and for Rock women’s basketball it’s certainly no different, especially when you bring in four new highly talented recruits.
Three of the new women’s basketball players are former NCAA Division I athletes, while one new freshman turned down a number of Division I programs just for the chance to play with the Green and White.
Junior guard Lexi Carpenter, sophomore guards Ciara Patterson and Krista Pietropola, and freshman Morgan Henderson each find themselves in Slippery Rock this winter, and each one has a different story about finding their way to The Rock.
Carpenter’s story may be the most complicated, having been a member of two different programs before settling down SRU. Her freshman year, she played just four games with the University of Dayton in Ohio before heading back home to Woodbridge, Va. because of family emergency. After returning to Virginia, she had full intentions of staying close to home to continue her collegiate career.
Before she knew it, her former high school basketball coach Rebecca Tillett accepted a job at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), coaxing Carpenter into joining the Crimson Hawks for her sophomore season. Unfortunately for Lexi, she ended up getting injured and sat out the entire season. Over the course of that year, Tillett left IUP to join the coaching staff at the Naval Academy while former IUP assistant and current SRU assistant coach Ryenn Micaletti left the program to join Slippery Rock’s staff. Micaletti successfully convinced Carpenter to transfer to The Rock for her junior year, and Rock head coach Bobby McGraw is convinced that she will have no problem fitting in.
“She (Carpenter) is a born floor leader,” McGraw said. “She’s going to be our starting point guard because she is such a floor general.”
Patterson joins SRU after playing in 28 games as a true freshman at Wright State, averaging 4.3 points per game with an average of 12.7 minutes played per game. She decided to leave Wright State after one season knowing she wanted to be closer to her home in North Versailles, Pa., and immediately another D-I program in Duquesne came knocking on her door. McGraw was able to sneak in to her recruitment and convinced her to wear SRU green.
McGraw praised Patterson’s exceptional defensive prowess.
“She is a kid who I want to jumpstart our program with her intensity and defensive effort,” McGraw said. “She steps on the floor with fire and passion, and she’s really my type of player. Of the three new transfers, she is the best on-ball defender.”
The final of the three former D-I transfers is Krista Pietropola, and McGraw insists its her shooting ability that will keep opposing teams on their guard for four quarters.
“She is a pure shooter who can just shoot the ball well,” he said. “When we have players like Ciara (Patterson), Lexi (Carpenter) and Erica (Aiello) who can get into the paint and make the other team collapse into that area, all of a sudden you have Krista standing in the corner ready to knock down a three-pointer.”
Pietropola spent her freshman year at Youngstown State, playing in 22 games averaging 1.7 points in 5.3 minutes per game. After her first season with the Penguins, Pietropola realized she wasn’t entirely happy with the curriculum offered at YSU and began searching for schools where she could study physical therapy while playing basketball. According to McGraw, Duquesne stepped in and tried to coax her with its PT program in three academic years. Not wanting to fit that type of workload in while playing basketball on the side, she contacted McGraw and both parties figured Slippery Rock was the right and final destination for her.
“It pretty much came down to me telling her if she’s interested then I’m interested in bringing her in,” McGraw said. “I have to give all the credit to the physical therapy program. If it wasn’t for that program, I’m not sure we could have brought her in.”
Besides the flurry of D-I transfers, McGraw convinced forward Morgan Henderson to turn down all Division I offers and join The Rock. At SRU’s exhibition game versus Division I Indiana University, (Ind.), a 98-33 loss for The Rock, McGraw insists that her effort was one of the few bright spots he and his staff were able to take away.
“I was extremely impressed with Morgan’s debut because she was not afraid to step on the floor,” McGraw said. “She is our first signature recruit to come here and pass up some big offers to get our program back on track.”
With the four new players wearing Slippery Rock uniforms, McGraw believes there is no doubt that his team is going to shock the rest of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). Of course, it won’t be an easy task, considering defending Division II national champion California University (Pa.) is in the same division. Despite the noise surrounding Cal U’s team, McGraw thinks his teams’ depth will be enough to overcome a lot of adversity.
“We have role players on our squad that could probably start for a lot of other programs in our conference,” McGraw said. “We should be much more competitive and I think we could contend for a league title. That’s been our goal since day one and I think we now have the fire power to do it.”