When we next catch UB's Women's Basketball team tonight at Canisius - or for most of you Saturday in the MAC opener against Ohio - we'll see the bench a little longer, swelled by three midseason additions, who all recently made their way to Buffalo after the recent holiday.
Dedicated followers of the team will remember that of Coach Jack's four-woman signing class of a few weeks ago, two were Australian imports who have now graduated high school and were expected to join the team around the new year. Assistant Coach Cherie Cordoba hails from Australia and played a good chunk of her professional career there, so it's no surprise that UB now features four players, all freshmen, from that continent.
In addition to forward Courtney Wilkins and guard Stephanie Reid, however, UB has a third midyear addition in center Cassie Oursler, who has transferred from Robert Morris midway through her sophomore year. Oursler is either 6'3" or 6'4", depending on who you ask, but is either way the tallest Bull and one of the five tallest players in the MAC.
Before filling you in further on Oursler, a refresher on the others. Both Reid and Wilkins are immediately eligible, but the coaching staff has not yet determined how they're going to handle their eligibility, given that four full seasons from tonight's game would run their clock out prior to the 2018-19 conference season.
Reid in particular, a 5'6" guard, may see playing time sooner rather than later at point guard, as the team works through continued ankle troubles for Mackenzie Loesing and sees a rotating cast of production from the point. Back on signing day, Coach Jack praised her vision and three-point shot.
Wilkins is the second 6'1" recruit in two classes for Coach Jack. With UB strong in the front court thanks to seniors Christa Baccas and Kristen Sharkey, she'll probably not see the floor at all in the rest of 2014-15, but will form a tandem with classmate Mariah Suchan and now Ourselr going forward.
And now we're back to Oursler, who seems a be a huge get for the Bulls, and was a surprise to me. Before her three semesters at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, she starred in Western New York at Grand Island High School, and as a Viking was named Western New York Player of the Year after her senior season.
With the Colonials she stepped right into the lineup, starting 25 of 33 games and averaging 7 points and 5 rebounds a game, as well as tallying 53 blocks. With Oursler in the post RMU won the NEC Championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. After the season ended the freshman was named to the All-NEC Rookie Team. Curiously, RMU is coached by Sal Buscaglia, who was in charge of the women's program in Buffalo for eight years prior to coaching the Manhattan Jaspers and making his way to Pittsburgh.
Oursler and Buffalo have applied for a Family Hardship Waiver which would grant the sophomore immediate eligibility, but it's not expected that we'll see Cassie on the floor in a meaningful game for a year. Still, there's no harm in applying. Should the waiver go through, we shouldn't be surprised to see the 6'4' center get time immediately. There aren't many student-athletes on any UB team that have the postseason experience she got last year.
Cassie, along with Wilkins and the aforementioned Mariah Suchan, will make up the frontcourt of the future for UB as Christa Baccas and Kristen Sharkey graduate this spring. In the immediate future the trio will supplement the work of sophomore Alexus Malone, but will also get their chances after she graduates, as well.
Most importantly for the here-and-now, welcome to Buffalo, Courtney and Stephanie, and welcome home, Cassie!