The program is in just its fifth year, but the goals are lofty. After two national tournament Final Four appearances in the first three years (last season’s tournament wasn’t held due to Covid), the Putnam Science Academy girls basketball team is poised to take the next step.
“We talk about winning a national championship, for sure,” said Devin Hill, head coach of the Prep Black team. “I talk about that when I first meet them and recruit them. It’s definitely out there. We talk about it during practice, about doing the little things that championship teams do. We talk about what it looks like. Not that we’ve won it before, but you know what it feels like when you at least have a chance and you know you can compete. We definitely talk about it. We don’t shy away from it.”
The Mustangs open their new season Friday night with a home game and a roster that is as deep as any in the first four seasons. There are eight or nine players who should end up playing Division I college basketball, though not all next year; only six of the 13 on the roster are members of the Class of 2022. And they should be fun to watch with all that depth and talent.
“I’ve never really been in a place where everyone wants the same thing,” said Molly Moffitt, one of those Class of ‘22s. “In high school some girls were playing just to play, or it was their second sport, or something like that. Everyone here really wants to get better and has a goal of playing college basketball. I think that then fuels our desire to get better and work. And we’re working for a title.”
And then, with so many players eligible to come back next season and beyond, that chemistry will already be established in many ways and the program can continue to grow into a national power. Hill wants his team to play fast and shoot a lot of 3s. At the start of the season, he figures he will go 12 deep, which is a little more than he typically would. So maybe it’ll be 10 or 11, maybe seven or eight by season’s end.
“But who knows, maybe things click in a way or we’re playing a certain style or a system where everyone understands each other and we can stay deep,” he said.
The backcourt features Ines Goryanova, who is only 15 but has a chance to be the team’s leading scorer, and more often than not, has been its best player in the preseason; Janeya Grant, a great shooter who once scored 50 points in a high school game; Jada Mills, a good athlete who can score at all three levels; Maisie Harrhy, who has played for the Wales senior women’s national team since she was 15 years old; Anna Kitch, one of the group’s vocal leaders and whom Hill termed “a really good glue player”; Alba Farell Torres, a hard-working, pass-first point guard; Genevive Wedemeyer, the team’s best defender and physical presence; and Astou Ndeye, a wildly gifted player who five years from now, could very well be the best player from this team. Minja Sudzum, a lefty point guard, is hopeful of rejoining the Mustangs in January after an injury forced her out for most of last year and the first half of this year.
In the frontcourt are: Paris Kirk, a steady and professional-like forward who always does things the right way and has committed to play next year at Robert Morris University; Aniya Perry, a high-motor player who fills the stat sheet through the flow of the game; Moffitt, an extremely versatile wing who can rebound and push the ball up the floor for her own shot or create it for other; and Fatim Sarr Ndow, a really good athlete, an excellent defender, and a great teammate; she too will miss the first half of the season due to injury but hopes to return to the court in January.
“So many people here do so many different things so well and seeing us come together as one team has been really fun to watch,” Moffitt said. “When we’re playing with each other in a live game, it’s going to be really exciting.”