Gone is the hero from the Final Eight to whom the performance in that competition likely secured a spot on the US Olympic squad – Asjha Jones. She was also the team’s top scorer throughout the last season. Team’s second foreigner Essence Carson has joined Jones in signing with teams from Turkey. It wasn’t just team’s foreigners going elsewhere – influential point guard Elisa Aguilar went to Russia, while Amaya Valdemoro (her influence, due to injuries was limited last season) signed with Turkish ELW club Tarsus.
Replacing them as well as Sandra Prsic and Tijana Krivacevic who were temporary signings last season are Queralt Casas, Katalin Honti, Oleksandra Kurasova, Ziomara Morrison and Aneika Henry. Would have mentioned Jaklin Zlatanova but the season ended for her, not having really started.
The signing of Casas was good for the team mainly because it was for multiple seasons. It gives them a nice core of Casas, Anna Cruz and Laura Nicholls moving on further past this season. Casas is not really an useful option at point guard, but Rivas could be forced to use her there with the uncertainty of Clara Bermejo’s health. Bermejo has been out for about 10 months now. What started with a meniscus ended up as a damaged knee cartilage. While she should be cleared to play pretty soon there will be some rust and time needed to get in game shape.
Wiithout Bermejo main point guarding duties will fall upon Hungarian guard Katalin Honti. With a career assist/turnover ratio of 1.56, Honti has been more useful as a point guard than as a shooting guard where she has had some issues with attacking from distance.
Shooting guard Anna Cruz is not a more likely player to attack from behind the arc considering she’s a career 24% shooter from 3p. Attack from distance will be an issue for Rivas. They have lost their top two players in 3 point field goal attempts and makes in Essence Carson and Elisa Aguilar. As mentioned, Honti, Cruz haven’t excelled in that element. Neither has Casas. Oddly enough their top three point threat could end up being Chilean center Ziomara Morrison who shot 43% behind the arc last season. That was the first season she had constantly attacked from behind the arc, so the sample size is too limited to call her a three point shooter.
Odds are that Laura Nicholls will be Rivas starting center throughout the season with Morrison coming off bench to sub in for her. With power forwards it appears to be tossup between Oleksandra Kurasova and Aneika Henry, who is yet to join the team. My guess would be Henry. Coach Mendez might have different thoughts.
None of these posts is a game changer, like Asjha Jones was last season for Rivas. The team will have to rely upon Honti and Cruz to win them games. I am not sure either one will help them win enough for the team to advance to the Final Eight this time around.