| Las Cruces Sun-News
LAS CRUCES – The new season’s start date of Nov. 25 is rapidly approaching for the New Mexico State women’s basketball team.
After winning the WAC title in 2019, the Aggies went 12-18 (8-8 WAC) last season and are now looking to find their footing in the conference’s hierarchy once again.
Here’s a look at New Mexico State’s roster heading into the new campaign.
The Aggies’ top scoring option this season is undoubtedly redshirt senior Aaliyah Prince.
The 5-foot-8 shooting guard averaged career highs of 11.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 24.3 minutes per game last season while serving as the righthand women to star player Gia Pack.
Without much range to her game, Prince thrives off being a savvy finisher around the rim. The San Antonio, Texas, native is capable of knifing her way into the lane at will for a close-range bucket, and that allowed her to shoot an impressive 44.4 percent from the floor last season.
Prince is also one of the top defending guards in the WAC. She recorded a team-high total of 41 steals last season which also ranked seventh in the conference.
With Pack now playing overseas, look for Prince to up all of these numbers in her final year with the Aggies.
Joining Prince in the backcourt is Soufia Inoussa.
The 5-foot-7 point guard impressed last season as a true freshman, averaging 7.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game while starting all 30 contests.
Inoussa showed plenty of promise in her first year of college ball, although the strong season didn’t come without its struggles. The young guard recorded an assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.7, but she should only get better as the game continues to slow down for her.
Now a sophomore, Inoussa is one of the Aggies’ go-to scoring options and a potential double-digit scorer on a nightly basis.
Adding to New Mexico State’s strong backcourt depth is redshirt senior Rodrea Echols.
The 5-foot-9 guard brings plenty of size to the position and does a little bit of everything. Echols averaged 5.9 points and 1.3 assists in 19.8 minutes per game last season, although she averaged 2.3 assists per contest two seasons ago.
Defensively, Echols is capable of guarding positions one through four. The former Oklahoma State guard takes pride in matching up against the other team’s best player, and that’ll often be the case again this season.
Back for her junior season is 5-foot-8 guard Tayelin Grays.
The Dayton, Texas, native averaged 1.4 points and 1 rebound in a limited 8.6 minutes per game last season. Grays struggled to find her shot during those short stretches, shooting 29.8 percent from the floor and 22.2 percent from distance.
Despite those shooting woes, Grays is still a solid ball handler with good strength and a knack for finding open teammates. She posted a per 40 of 3.6 assists last season, which ranked second on the team.
Look for Grays to make the most of a slightly larger role this time around on an Aggies squad with plenty of guards competing for playing time.
The only player to have a high per 40 assist average than Grays last season was none other than Adrianna Henderson, who returns for her redshirt senior season.
The 5-foot-7 guard averaged a team-high 2.5 assists to go along with 5 points in 20.3 minutes per contest, and she averaged an impressive 5 assists per 40 minutes.
Henderson also showed her ability to knock down shots from distance. The Topeka, Kansas, native shot a team-high 43.5 percent from long range (10-for-23).
Henderson proved to be one of the Aggies’ key bench players last season, and that role only grew as the campaign unfolded. She averaged 25.8 minutes per game in New Mexico State’s last four contests, and she should hover around that number this season.
Providing a much-needed presence on the perimeter is 5-foot-10 senior Amanda Soderqvist.
The Swedish guard averaged 5.5 points in 21.8 minutes per game last season while shooting 31.1 percent from distance. Soderqvist drilled 47 triples, which ranked second on the team and is the most amongst all returners.
Finding more consistency from behind the arc is going to be key, but Soderqvist’s willingness to let it fly is crucial for New Mexico State’s spacing nonetheless. The Aggies ranked sixth in the WAC in made threes last season.
Providing some much-needed size for the Aggies this season is 6-foot-1 sophomore Shania Harper.
The Las Vegas native made the most of her 10.1 minutes per game last season. She averaged 2.8 points and 3.8 rebounds as a true freshman, and her per 40 numbers were even more impressive.
Harper averaged a team-high 15 rebounds per 40 minutes last season. For context, Pack came in second at 10.9 rebounds per 40 minutes.
Now tied for the tallest player on the team following the graduations of Micayla Buckner and Adenike Aderinto, Harper is primed for a more prominent role in the frontcourt.
Joining Harper in the frontcourt is redshirt senior Nana Sule.
The 6-foot veteran averaged 3 rebounds and 1.3 points in 13.6 minutes per game last season. Despite shooting a team-low 29.8 percent from the floor last season, Sule’s relentless work on the boards is where she provides value for the Aggies.
Look for Sule to carve out a consistent role on the team for that alone this season, and her minutes should only go up if she improves her shooting numbers.
Kalei Atkinson is back in the mix after redshirting last season due to injury.
The 6-foot guard provided solid depth for the Aggies two seasons ago, averaging 3.2 points and 2 rebounds in 18.8 minutes per contest. Atkinson made her biggest mark defensively, though.
The small forward averaged 0.8 blocks and 0.8 steals per game during her limited time on the court, and she’ll be a good two-way option again this season on a New Mexico State team that doesn’t have the deepest frontcourt.
Ready to make her debut for the Aggies is redshirt senior Grace Colaivalu, who sat out last season due to transfer rules after coming over from Colorado State.
The 5-foot-7 point guard is a pass-first player with excellent court vision. Colaivalu racked up a team-high 4.7 assists per game two seasons ago as a redshirt sophomore while also posting an impressive assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.4.
In addition to feeding her teammates, Colaivalu also averaged 6.5 points per game in her last season at Colorado State. Despite not being a threat from deep, the veteran guard uses her strength to get to both the rim and the free throw line when on the attack.
Although the backcourt is crowded, look for New Mexico State to roll out a lineup of three or four ball handlers in order to find playing time for both returners and new pieces such as Colaivalu.
The Aggies are without their best player from last season, Gia Pack, who is now playing for Piestanske Cajku in the European Women’s Basketball League.
Pack averaged a WAC-best 18 points to go along with 9.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 steals per contest last season en route to her third All-WAC First Team selection.
The 5-foot-10 guard ranks fifth on the program’s all-time scoring list, and it’ll be a group effort for the Aggies to replace that level of scoring this season following her graduation.
New Mexico State lost even more size this offseason with the graduation of Micayla Buckner.
Standing at 6-foot-4, the veteran forward was the team’s tallest player last season and the best rim protector. She recorded a team-high 17 total blocks while averaging 3.9 points and 2.3 in 13 minutes per game.
Buckner played in all 30 of the Aggies’ contests and started in 14 of them, leaving a hole in the frontcourt this season.
Another player with good size who graduated this offseason is 6-foot-2 forward Adenike Aderinto, who was the team’s second-tallest player last season.
Aderinto averaged 4.1 points and 4 rebounds in 14.9 minutes per game as a senior, and her average of 10.7 rebounds per 40 minutes ranked third on the team.
The Zaria, Nigeria, native played in all 30 of New Mexico State’s games last season and started in 13 of them.
Leading the Aggies’ incoming group of talent is North Texas transfer Deja Terrell.
The 6-foot-1 forward averaged 3.4 points and 2.5 rebounds in 8.4 minutes per game two seasons ago with the Mean Green. Terrell brings toughness to the frontcourt and is capable of stretching the floor at either the four or the five spot.
Now tied for the tallest player on New Mexico State’s roster, the graduate transfer fills an immediate need and should carve out a considerable role.
Also in the mix this season is McLennan Community College transfer Jade Bradley.
The 5-foot-8 guard led the Highlassies with 16.2 points per game on 46.5-percent shooting from the floor and 36.8-percent shooting from distance.
Although the backcourt is crowded this season, Bradley’s ability to score at all three levels makes her a solid option off the bench this season.
The final transfer that New Mexico State added is Angelina College’s Tyeisha Smith.
The 5-foot-8 guard averaged a team-high 15.4 points to go along with 4.7 rebounds per game last season and also showed off a knack for getting to the foul line. She went 72-for-97 (74.2 percent) from the charity stripe.
With good size and an aggressive mindset when driving, Smith should fit in well with the Aggies.
New Mexico State also added a pair of true freshmen this offseason, and one of those players is Taylor Donaldson.
The 5-foot-10 guard averaged 26.3 points and 8 rebounds per game in her senior season at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, California.
Donaldson is capable of playing positions one through three and can score both down low and from distance. She’s also a versatile defender due to her length and athleticism, making her a promising two-way player for the Aggies.
The other true freshman in the mix is Molly Kaiser, who hails from Watauga, Texas.
The 5-foot-8 prospect is a combo guard, and her strength makes her a handful when barreling down the lane.
Look for both Kaiser and Donaldson to play the role of the understudies this season, although both players boast a good amount of potential.