Freshmen Give Huskers Top 20 Class
Nebraska's first freshman signing class under Coach Amy Williams was ranked as the No. 20 group in the nation by espnW in its final rankings of the 2017 high school seniors on July 13.
Taylor Kissinger, a 6-1 guard/forward from Minden, Neb., and Kate Cain, a 6-5 center from Middletown, N.Y., make up the only two 2017 high school seniors in Nebraska's freshman class of 2017-18, but both were ranked in the ESPN Top 100.
Kissinger was ranked as the No. 38 overall player in the nation by espnW and was a three-time All-Nebraska and Super-State selection at Minden High School. Despite battling injury as a senior, Kissinger averaged 24.2 points and 9.0 rebounds per game on her way to being named the honorary captain of the Journal Star's Class C-1 team. A four-time Class C-1 all-stater, Kissinger also overcame injury as a junior to average 28.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in 2015-16. Although she missed 27 total games with injury in her final two high school seasons, Kissinger finished her prep career with 1,751 points, 611 rebounds, 310 assists and 202 steals.
Cain, Nebraska's most recent addition who joined the Huskers in mid-June, was ranked No. 82 in the 2017 senior class by espnW. A first-team All-New York performer as a senior at Pine Bush High School, Cain was ranked as the No. 10 post player in the nation. She averaged 25.2 points, 12.3 rebounds and 7.9 blocks per game as a senior, after averaging 24.3 points, 15.0 rebounds and 8.0 blocks per game as a junior.
While Williams' first Husker class is ranked solely on its two freshmen, the Big Red will also be bolstered by a pair of transfers who sat out during the 2016-17 season. Senior guard Janay Morton will have one season to help Nebraska on the court after three solid years at Eastern Michigan. As a junior at EMU in 2015-16, Morton averaged 13.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.8 steals per game. In her three years at Eastern Michigan, the 5-10 guard from Brooklyn Park, Minn., totaled 1,341 points, 359 rebounds, 249 assists and 223 steals over 103 games with 94 starts. Morton was a third-team All-Mid-American Conference selection as a junior and a member of the MAC All-Defensive Team. She was also a member of the MAC All-Freshman Team in 2014.
Sophomore Bria Stallworth will get her first taste of Big Ten basketball after earning a spot on the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team at UMass in 2015-16. The 5-6 guard from Chicago averaged 13.2 points, 2.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 0.9 steals over 30 games with 26 starts as a freshman at UMass. She led all A-10 freshmen in scoring and assists in 2015-16.
The Big Red also hope to be boosted by the return of sophomore Rachel Blackburn. The 6-3 forward from Leavenworth, Kan., redshirted during the 2016-17 season while recovering from multiple surgeries. As a freshman in 2015-16, Blackburn started 10 games and averaged 4.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 17 minutes per game as Nebraska's top post defender, despite being limited by injuries throughout the season.
Nebraska was one of only two Big Ten women's basketball teams to earn top 20 rankings from espnW. Northwestern, which lost five seniors to graduation, had its freshman class ranked No. 18 in the nation with three top 100 newcomers.
Tennessee, UConn, Texas, Louisville and Stanford accounted for the nation's top five incoming freshman classes, while UCLA, Baylor, Texas A&M, Georgia and defending national champion South Carolina rounded out the top 10.
Nebraska will tip off its 2017-18 season with an exhibition game against Minnesota State-Mankato on Sunday, Nov. 5 at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The Huskers will play host to SIU-Edwardsville in their regular-season opener on Saturday, Nov. 11 in Lincoln.