Sophomores make the upgrade to version 2.0

Sophomore guard Ta’Kenya Nixon was the star of her class last season, earning honors in the Ohio Valley Conference such as freshman and defensive player of the year, as well as being voted a member of the All-OVC first team.

However, her three other class members – now sophomores – had impressive seasons, too, and head coach Brady Sallee is excited about the improvements each player has made this offseason.

One of the sophomores, Kelsey Wyss, could’ve been a much more prominent player last season, according to Sallee.

“Kelsey settled into a back up role a little bit both physically and mentally,” Sallee said.

Sallee said this disappointed him; however, he said he has been pleased with how she has approached the offseason.

“This year she expected a more prominent role,” Sallee said. “I think she is playing at a high level because of it.”

Wyss, who often was the backup to former Panther Ashley Thomas, has some impressive skills that are different from Thomas, according to Sallee.

In fact, Sallee said this season many of the youngsters have different skill sets compared to the seniors who played last season.

Sallee said the main difference between Wyss and Thomas is that Wyss can get her own shot.

“She can put it on the floor and rise up over you and shoot it with her strength,” Sallee said.

In last season’s opening game, Wyss led the Panthers with 12 points. In that game, against Ohio State, Wyss came off of the bench.

Sallee said he and the coaches are excited about the development of sophomore forward Sydney Mitchell, who averaged double-digit points in February – her best month.

“That is where we are hanging our hats on with her, is that February,” Sallee said.

This offseason, Sallee said he noticed Mitchell carrying herself in a new way. He said she feels like she can be really good and is carrying herself that way.

Nixon will be bigger, faster and stronger, according to Sallee; however, she wont be the Hulk, Sallee said.

“She’s never going to be this hulky menace,” Sallee said.

But Sallee said he is OK with that because he said Nixon’s biggest improvement is between her ears, knowing Eastern’s system a lot better.

“That’s what I’m excited about with her is building on where she was as a freshman almost not knowing what she was doing, now you put the knowledge behind it,” Sallee said.

Sallee said the sophomore class, which also includes Mariah King, has improved from top to bottom.

“Their heads are in the right places,” Sallee said. “We need them to be.”

Alex McNamee can be reached at 581-7944 or at [email protected].