2020 Northwestern Women’s Basketball Roster Breakdown
By Jacob Brown
Perhaps the biggest disappointment for Northwestern fans in recent memory was the cancellation of the women’s NCAA Tournament last spring. With elite coaching, All-Big Ten talent and home-court advantage, the Wildcats looked poised to make a long run. And while a lot of things have changed since then, one thing hasn’t: this team is still really good.
Northwestern will have to respond to losing some of their best players from 2019. In particular, Abbie Wolf’s post presence on both ends and Abi Scheid’s ability to torch opponents from beyond the arc. Still, with three returning starters and some exciting new talent, here’s how I expect the ‘Cats to line up this winter:
As Lindsey Pulliam enters her senior year, Northwestern gets to give its Big Three of Pulliam, Veronica Burton and Sydney Wood one final go. Look for veterans Courtney Shaw and Jordan Hamilton to also step up in the starting lineup.
PG: Veronica Burton
Veronica Burton started slow in 2019, hitting just 20 three-pointers on 82 attempts through the first 10 games of Big Ten play. But Burton caught fire when NU needed her to and hit 15 of her final 25 shots from deep. When you add that to her elite ability to penetrate and score inside, on top of her ability to move the ball, she is a first-class baller. She also led the Big Ten with 100 steals and was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year — all in just her sophomore season. It’s hard to give Burton all of the praise she deserves, but she is really good at basketball.
SG/SF: Jordan Hamilton
Jordan Hamilton lost her starting spot to an injury early in the season last year, but that says less about Hamilton and more about the great play of Sydney Wood. Even off of the bench, Hamilton remained a spark plug. With a fiery passion, tremendous leadership skills, and the ability to get hot in a hurry, Hamilton will add a lot to the ‘Cats offense in her last season, whether it be off the bench or as a starter.
SG/SF: Sydney Wood
Sydney Wood has been a defensive ace from the moment she stepped on the court. She started only four games in her first year, but proved to be a tenacious defender by forcing turnovers and locking down elite scorers. Wood struggled on the offense early in her career, averaging 3 points per game on 37% shooting in her first year. However, she is beginning to find her place in NU’s system, emerging as an intelligent off-ball player. With that said, she was an All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2019, and had a strong case for defensive player of the year, if not for a familiar face besting her for the award.
SG/SF: Lindsey Pulliam
Lindsey Pulliam was a unanimous All-Big Ten first team choice in 2019. Everyone already knew that she could score the ball from the midrange before last season, but Pulliam took the next step, improving her three-point-percentage to 35% from 18% the year before. With her ability to score at will, rotate on defense and serve as a leader on and off the court, it is safe to say that Pulliam is the heart and soul of this Northwestern team.
C: Courtney Shaw
Courtney Shaw had a rollercoaster Sophomore year. She came off the bench in all 30 of her appearances, playing behind Wolf. But Shaw showed signs of excellence on the offensive and defensive side last year after Coach Tangela Smith described her as the team’s “Most Improved Player” in the 2019 offseason. If Shaw can put it all together on a consistent basis, she can be really good. The biggest things to watch for the junior will be her ability to stay out of foul trouble (she committed 59 personal fouls last year, fouling out twice) and convert when she is fouled herself (she shot .364 from the line last season).
Northwestern’s second unit holds a lot less certainty than the starters do. The front of the bench has an immense amount of talent, but questions about health and youth linger. Jess Sancataldo and Lauryn Satterwhite both enter their third years of eligibility having missed substantial time due to injury. Paige Mott and Anna Morris are two highly rated recruits, but it remains uncertain how they will fare at the collegiate level.
Jess Sancataldo is going to be a player to watch this year for the ‘Cats. Aside from a 20-point game against UT-Martin in her first year, we haven’t seen much yet from the sharpshooter. She appeared in 19 games in her first season and only 8 in her second year due to lower body injuries. A sniper from beyond the arc, Sancataldo could play a similar role to Scheid. If she was able to add some muscle in the offseason, coaches Tangela Smith and Kate Popovec could easily improve her post abilities and turn her into a starting power forward.
Lauryn Satterwhite has yet to get a chance to shine off the bench, but could be instrumental to the ‘Cats’ success this year. After missing her first year, she played just four games in her redshirt first-year season, and played 19 games as a sophomore. After spending two seasons in a knee brace, the hope is that with a healthy leg and an opportunity to play a larger role off of the bench, Satterwhite can thrive as the floor general in the second unit.
Described by McKeown as “a ferocious rebounder, a power post player and just a really smart basketball player,” first-year Paige Mott should get a chance to prove herself off the bench. Her ability to play the 4 or 5 will allow McKeown to utilize her in many situations, pairing her with Shaw, Morris or NU’s four-guard lineup.
First-year Anna Morris faces huge expectations from Northwestern fans and has the potential to back it up. McKeown described her as a combination of NUWBB greats, saying that she “rebounds like Pallas [Kunaiyi-Akpanah] and shoots like Scheid.” If what McKeown says is true, the program’s highest rated recruit will be a crucial addition. Most of all, NU needs her to shoot well from deep and to space the floor on offense to allow Burton and Shaw to play near the hoop.
Jasmine McWilliams is going to be a really good player for Northwestern, but it isn’t likely to happen this year. It’s not that she doesn’t have the talent — because she does. McWilliams combines elite athleticism with tremendous height. She excels at rebounding from the backcourt, is a menace in passing lanes and will look to use her athleticism to score on the break. But with NU’s depth at guard, McKeown’s tendency to keep his main rotations to 7-9 players and the value of having an extra year on a potential star player, McWilliams is a prime target for a redshirt. If she stays on the sideline for this year, she will have the opportunity to work on her shot with Pulliam and develop as Burton’s protege for season’s to come.
Kaylah Rainey has good instincts, and tremendous speed, but her short stature (5-6) and .143 three-point-percentage find her stuck behind Satterwhite and Burton.
Pikiell has good and bad news. The bad: she will likely not play unless the ‘Cats are up big. The good: the ‘Cats should be up big a lot.
Hartman showed signs of potential in her first year, but with a multitude of talent in front of her, don’t expect the sophomore see much playing time in 2020.
The Bottom Line
Coach McKeown and his staff have a plethora of talent. A double-edged sword, NU will always have quality players in the game, but younger players like Hartman and McWilliams will likely slip out of the rotation. Whatever the case may be, look for Northwestern’s staff to experiment early in the season to see what rotations work and who might be stuck on the bench.