Starting five for Augsburg women’s basketball are all Black

. (l-r) Arianna Jones, Camryn Speese

It’s a first in the state for college hoops

The 2020 MIAC Women’s Basketball Playoffs’ Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday format resumes Thursday with two semifinals games. The two top seeds, Bethel and Augsburg, will play Tuesday’s quarterfinals winners (results not available at press time). 

Thursday’s winners play Saturday on the top remaining seed’s home court.

“It’s been a very exciting women’s basketball season in the MIAC,” Assistant Commissioner BJ Pickard told the MSR last week. “Bethel, Augsburg and St. Thomas all regionally ranked. We’ve had four different teams ranked among the top 25 [nationally].”

Bethel (19-1, 24-1 overall) and Augsburg (17-3, 21-4 overall) finished one-two in the regular season and possibly could play a third time Saturday for both the league’s tournament title and the MIAC’s automatic bid to the NCAAs. “I would like that,” AU Coach Ted Riverso said.

Augsburg senior Christopher Oliva, however, flatly stated after the Auggies’ loss at Bethel last Wednesday that he doesn’t see his school getting a fair shake if indeed the two teams do meet again on Saturday—Bethel won the season series. “The refs always seem to go against Augsburg,” he said.

Seniors Arianna Jones (Brooklyn Park), Tamira McLemore (Eagan), Camryn Speese (Bloomington), Aiza Wilson (Bloomington), Kaezha Wubben (Minneapolis), and Abby Jordan (Rogers) were saluted last Saturday at the team’s final regular-season game at Si Melby Hall.  This class combined for two MIAC postseason berths; two 20-win seasons, a program first; 70 overall wins and nearly 50 league victories.

Jones, McLemore, Speese and Jones, along with junior Jazmyn Solseth (Inver Grove Heights), also made both school and conference history as the first all-Black women’s basketball starting five in Minnesota colleges and universities.

“This shouldn’t be in 2020, [that] we’re the first starting five women of color,” Speese declared. “We don’t want to knock any women of color who played for Augsburg before and played in the MIAC before, because it is definitely a tough thing to do, being a woman of color and playing in the MIAC.

Charles Hallman/MSR News Augsburg Coach Ted Riverso (in center) instructing his team

“We reflected a lot, especially from last year” on their first season as a non-White starting unit that finished second in the MIAC regular season and playoffs, Speese continued. “For us to start five women of color, that is something we want to set a tone” both at Augsburg and the conference, she said.

Jones added, “This is one of the biggest parts of our legacy. There are definitely younger girls [of color] looking up and saying, ‘If they can do that, so can I.’ The fact that we are the first team to do that…I feel good that we are part of that.”

The sistahs five, along with Wubben, account for most of the Auggies’ scoring, rebounding and steals. “To be that top five people on [opposing teams’] scouting reports that these girls will be a problem and how we are going to stop them” is remarkable as well, Speese said proudly.

“We are still an unknown. You’d think we’d start to get some notoriety,” especially after last season’s success as well as this year’s, Riverso said of his club. “It hasn’t been there yet.”

Both Speese and Jones and their teammates are betting that this week will change that. “When we play as a team, we can beat anybody,” Speese said.

Overlooked milestone

Colorado earlier this week hired Karl Dorrell as their new football coach to succeed Mel Tucker, who is now at Michigan State. This might be the first time in recent memory that a Division I predominantly White institution has hired consecutive Black head coaches.