College athletics

FIU women’s basketball team hopes new recruits will boost leading scorer Jerica Coley

 

Special to the Miami Herald

FIU women’s basketball star Jerica Coley, who led the nation in scoring last season, will enter her senior year having never played in an NCAA Tournament.

To try to remedy the situation, the Panthers signed four recruits last week. FIU has scouted three of those recruits in person, but the fourth player — 5-6 guard Nikolina Todorovic, who was only seen in videos from Bosnia & Herzegovina — appears to be the best scorer of the bunch.

“Nikolina supposedly is a very good shooter,” said associate head coach Inge Nissen, who has been with FIU since 1989. “It all depends how she makes the transition from Europe to American basketball.”

Nissen, a native of Denmark, made that transition herself, playing college ball at Old Dominion before launching a successful pro career.

She said American basketball is much faster and more physical now than it was when she was playing, but she likes the way Todorovic moves to get open and said the prospect can “fire it up” from long range.

Indeed, Todorovic averaged 25 points, six assists and five steals for Gymnasium Banja Luka.

FIU also signed 6-1 forward Janka Hegedus, who averaged 16 points for her school in Budapest, Hungary; 6-0 forward Karrah Johnson, who averaged 11 points and 10 rebounds for Lake Highland Prep in Orlando; and 6-0 forward Kiandre’a Pound, who averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds for Vero Beach’s Sebastian River, which won a Class 7A state title in 2012.

Nissen said Hegedus is a post player with a midrange shot and the ability to move and rebound. Both of her parents played for the Hungarian national team.

Johnson and Pound will be asked to make the transition from forward to the perimeter.

As for the holdovers, 6-3 senior center Marita Davydova, who led the team in rebounds (8.8) and was second in scoring (9.8), is the best hope for the secondary scoring FIU needs.

“It’s intimidating playing with Coley,” Nissen said. “It takes a strong player [mentally] to keep that ball and put it up [instead of deferring to Coley].

“It will take someone to say: ‘I can do this.’ I think Marita has that ability because she is not affected by anyone.

“But no matter who it is, we need someone to step up consistently and take the pressure off of Jerica. Last season, [Coley] was worn out playing 40 minutes every game. By the end, she was very close to being burned out.”

BUCKLES UNDECIDED

New FIU men’s basketball coach Anthony Evans said Rakeem Buckles, a 6-7 forward who sat out last season after transferring from Louisville, is “exploring his options.”

FIU currently has 10 scholarship players on the roster, and Evans said it’s possible he could add one or two recruits for the upcoming season.

“With our [up-tempo] style of play, you need depth,” he said.

Aside from Florida, Evans said he will recruit heavily in New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

ELSEWHERE

• Ex-Hurricanes point guard Shane Larkin is projected to be the 15th pick of the June 27 NBA Draft, going to the Milwaukee Bucks, according to ESPN’s Chad Ford. Larkin’s size – he is generously listed at 6-0 – is considered a negative, but he makes up for it with a 44-inch vertical leap, the second-highest jump measured at the pre-draft combine in the past 13 years.

• Former Broward College center A.J. Matthews is earning scouts’ interest and could be selected in the NBA Draft. After Broward, Matthews, a 6-10, 215-pounder, played for Farmingdale State, a Division III school in New York. He averaged 22.4 points, 16.3 rebounds and 3.67 blocks and could be the 10th Division III player ever drafted by an NBA team.

•  Stefanie Yderstrom is on Sweden’s women’s basketball national team. The former Canes guard is now in France, playing in the Eurobasket tournament against other national teams.

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