Women’s basketball set to bring in talented recruiting class

Freshman guard Priscilla Williams is set to transfer to USF from Syracuse, where she averaged 8.7 points and 3.2 assists in the one season she played. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

Despite losing most of the core of this year’s team to either graduation or the transfer portal, coach Jose Fernandez and his staff are set to bring in another talented haul of newcomers for next season.

It seems to be the start of a new era for the USF women’s basketball team. 

The Bulls lost six players to the transfer portal, including key starters like Elisa Pinzan and Sydni Harvey. Pinzan announced in a tweet on Tuesday that she was headed to play for Maryland after four seasons at USF.

Fernandez’s newest class of recruits will be joining an already talented roster that returns two double-digit scorers. Senior guard Elena Tsineke averaged 14 points per game and senior forward Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu scored 10.6 points and grabbed 7.4 rebounds per game.

While the Bulls may not be done recruiting for next season yet, these are some of the confirmed new faces that fans should look out for on the hardwood in 2022-23.

Priscilla Williams

Williams announced her intention to transfer to USF from Syracuse on Tuesday night on her Instagram. She spent two seasons with the Orange and last played during the 2020-21 season.

The 6-foot-2 guard was a five-star high school recruit ranked the ninth overall player in the 2020 class. As a senior at Branson High School in Missouri, she averaged 30 points and 10 rebounds.

She was also a McDonald’s All-American, named to the Jordan Brand Classic roster and was a USA Today Missouri First Team selection.

During her freshman season at Syracuse, Williams was a consistent contributor, starting 21 games and averaging 8.7 points, 3.2 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game. She also scored a career-high 26 points against Miami.

Williams will fit right into Fernandez’s offensive system as she’s not shy about taking shots from beyond the arc. She shot 37% from three-point range at Syracuse and tied a program record for threes in a single game with eight against Lincoln University.

“Priscilla comes to Tampa ready to get to work this summer,” Fernandez said of Williams in a statement. “She was one of the best players in the country coming out of high school and also one of the most sought after through the portal process.”

Emma Johansson

Much like Williams, Johansson will give the Bulls some more size as a forward at 6 feet, 2 inches tall. Coming out of Sweden, she played professionally for the Wetterbygden Sparks which played in the SBL, the country’s highest tier of women’s basketball.

In addition to her professional experience, Johansson has been exposed to the international game, playing for the Swedish national team and participating in the most recent European Championships in 2021. She was the youngest player on the team at 17 years old.

Johansson spent four seasons with Wetterbygden from 2018-22. This past season she averaged six points per game and 4.8 rebounds. Her season high was 13 which she scored against Uppsala in a 74-66 loss. 

Marina Asensio

Asensio also has professional experience playing four seasons for Segle XXI, a team in the Spanish second division. As a point guard, she had an impressive 2021-22 season in which she showed off her entire arsenal of skills.

She averaged 10.8 points and scored at least 15 points on six different occasions, including a career-high 28 against Girona in a 74-53 victory. She was also a decent shooter, knocking down 30% of her shots from three-point range. 

Although she mostly came off the bench, Asensio showed a propensity for making her teammates better, totaling 75 assists over 25 games for an average of 3.0 per contest. However, she also had a knack for turning the ball over at times with 2.4 turnovers per game, which she’ll have plenty of time to work on with Fernandez.

Daniela Gonzalez

Originally from Jamundi, Colombia, Gonzalez first played professionally for Leonas Inder Medellin, a team in Colombia’s second division. At 5 feet, 11 inches tall, she mostly started as a power forward with occasional minutes at center.

After three years with Leonas, Gonzalez moved to Kissimmee to play her last two years of high school basketball at Central Pointe Christian Academy. While there she helped lead the White Tigers to an SIAA Florida state championship in her junior year. It was also the program’s first year in existence.

She was also named the 2022 SIAA Toshiba Player of the Year.

During her time in the States she’s become known as an elite three-point shooter, setting a Grind Session Circuit record by making nine three pointers in a single game. 

Janette Aarnio

Aarnio was announced Wednesday as the newest of the program. Like most of the signings, she has extensive European experience playing in her native Finland for HBA-Marksy in the country’s top league.

She was one of the top scorers on the team at just 19 years old, averaging 14.8 points per game to go along with 4.4 rebounds and three assists.

Aarnio has also been one of the most consistent players, scoring at least 15 points on 10 different occasions this season in 18 games. Her season high was 24, which she reached twice.