Newcomers bring different skills, big goals to App State women’s basketball

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Lynette Files

App State senior guard Pre Stanley brings the ball up court during the WBI Championship game in Boone on April 3, 2019. Stanley is a 2020 preseason all-Sun Belt second team selection.

Connor Davidson, Associate Multimedia Editor

This season, App State women’s basketball welcomes four players to the team. Three of these newcomers are true freshmen, consisting of guards Bailey Trumm, Dane Bertolina and Faith Alston. The other is guard Zahra Daniel from Moberly Area Junior College in Miami, Florida.

Heading into the season, there was some concern over how well the returning members of the team would be able to build chemistry with the new players due to obstacles presented by COVID-19.

“Believe it or not, our upperclassmen, that was their biggest concern,” head coach Angel Elderkin said. “They were like, ‘The summer is so important for the newcomers.’ That’s when you kind of build your chemistry, and they’re not gonna have it.”

Instead of dwelling on the situation, Elderkin and her team made the most of the situation, participating in team challenges and reading a book together. The team met frequently on Zoom calls so that when they did finally get to meet face-to-face, they could jump straight into basketball activities.

“When we finally were able to hit the ground running in July, there wasn’t that gap,” Elderkin said. “We spent so much time just on chemistry and the standards and who we wanted to be, and I really felt like it was a seamless transition come July.”

The three true freshmen, Trumm, Bertolina and Alston, all shared one thing in common before coming to App State: taking part in the program’s summer Elite Camps. Trumm has been more involved with these camps than the others and began attending in middle school.

“The first time I ever came to App State, I was in the eighth grade, and I came for an Elite Camp,” Trumm said. “As I got to know the coaches better, I just really loved them, and as I came for more visits and got to know the team better, I knew these were just people I wanted to spend four years around.”

Trumm’s ability to shoot was the biggest appeal for Elderkin and her staff. At Powell High School in Powell, Tenn., she set the state record for most career three-pointers made and led the state all four years in threes made. Bertolina also brings a strong shooting presence to the team. She left her high school, Charlotte Catholic, as the school’s leader in three-pointers made. 

Last season, the Mountaineers only shot 28.6 percent from the three point line, which was 279th in the nation and 10th in the Sun Belt out of 12 teams.

“Both of them can shoot the lights out of the gym, and I think that we kind of lacked that last year,” senior guard Michaela Porter said. “We hit some shots in the game, but they’re solid shooters that (are) gonna knock it down.”

Alston is the third true freshman in this class. Alston comes to Boone from Paul VI Catholic High School in Northern Virginia, which is a competitive area for recruiting because App State is further south in the Sun Belt. While Alston isn’t as much of a shooter, her ball handling, court vision and passing ability make her a player that works well for App State. 

“She is the type of point guard for me personally that I’ve wanted to coach in our system because we want to play fast. When she gets the ball, it’s ‘eyes up the court, I’m gonna pitch it ahead, who’s open,’” Elderkin said. “In the ball screen, she’s making unbelievable plays, better than some of our upperclassmen.”

Daniel had a different path to App State than many of her teammates. She played at Moberly Area Junior College in Miami, Florida before the school started feeling the effects of COVID-19. Daniel’s coach reached out to Elderkin, and after watching some film, Elderkin offered Daniel a spot on the team.

“We really kind of took a risk with her, and it’s been great,” Elderkin said. “It’s been one of those risks that she’s gonna have a great future, she’s got a lot to learn, but she has all of the intangibles: the length, the speed, the size and the work ethic.”

With new faces that bring different assets to the team, App State now looks to improve on an 11-19 record in the 2019-20 season. While drastic improvements will be difficult to make in one season, this recruiting class is setting its sights high.

“Our small goals should just be to get one percent better every practice,” Trumm said. “Ultimately, winning the Sun Belt is my goal, and my goal for our team, and then for me and Dane as freshmen, our goal is to win the Sun Belt four years in a row.”