BeBlue Season Preview: Juniors
The calendar has now flipped to September and I'm ready for basketball to return. While there is still so much in the air due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we can still look ahead to what will no doubt be another exciting season of Drake Women's Basketball.
I'll be previewing this upcoming season by taking a look back at the 2019-20 campaign. We'll dive into each class and each player, and now it's time to preview Drake's junior class.
In her first full season as a Bulldog, Kierra Collier provided excitement and swagger. A fiery and competitive spirit that would ignite her teammates and the Knapp Center crowd.
In 27 games, Collier finished third on the team in scoring (8.9 PPG), assists (2.7 APG) and steals (30) in 2019-20. The guard certainly flashed her scoring potential on multiple occasions, dropping double-figures in 11 games, including five-straight games from February 15 through March 1 (averaged 13.2 PPG in that span). It took just three games for Collier to show off her explosive talent. In the Bulldogs' first road trip of the season, Collier poured-in a season-high 27 points at South Dakota, connecting on 10 total field goals (four from outside the arc) against the Coyotes.
Her second 20+ point performance came on an emotional day in the Knapp Center. In the annual 'Pink Game', Collier scored 22 points against a red-hot Bradley Braves team. The fourth quarter was all about No. 11, who scored seven-straight points in the waning minutes to help capture a key victory for Drake.
Along with her scoring talent, Collier was essential in the Bulldogs' offense as a facilitator. She dished out three-or-more assists in 13 games, including a season-high eight assists versus UNI on January 3. Collier's quick feet and active hands made her a force on defense, nabbing two-or-more steals in 10 contests.
Kierra Collier compiled an extensive highlight reel last season (just check out this shot at the buzzer).
Her unique ability to create in transition made her especially dangerous. It was tough for defenders to gauge whether Collier would pull-up in the paint or drive to the basket. Collier grew as a leader and became more comfortable in head coach Jennie Baranczyk's system as the season moved forward. When you combine all of these factors, you can't help but get excited for what will come next.
Maggie Negaard made a big splash in her sophomore season. The Stevens Point, Wisconsin native went from playing in 18 games as a freshman to appearing in all 30 games in 2019-20. In addition, Negaard went from averaging 5.0 minutes per game in 2018-19 to 17.5 minutes per game (second-most bench minutes on Drake) in her second season.
As a result, Negaard saw an uptick in the stats department. She averaged 5.7 points per game (career-high), 1.3 rebounds per game and 2.3 assists per game (t-4th on Drake), while ranking third on the team in three-pointers (32). Negaard quickly became a formidable scoring threat, hitting double-figures in six games and scoring six-or-more points in half of her games played (15). After knocking down two three-pointers in her freshman season, Negaard found her stroke by hitting at least one trey in 17 games and shooting 36.0 percent from downtown.
Once the Wisconsinite got rolling, she was tough to stop. That became clear when Drake faced Auburn to finish out the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida. In a tightly contested tournament finale, Negaard made big play after big play to help seal the win for the Bulldogs. 'Swaggy Maggie' dropped 15 points (6-8 FG, 3-5 3FG), dished out three assists and came away with a steal. Negaard displayed her range during the 'Des Moines Hometown Team Weekend', where she averaged 12.5 points per game and combined to go 9-for-15 from the field with six three's. Her overall versatility as both a ball-handler and superb shooter gave defender's fits last season.
Prior to her career at Drake, we knew Maggie Negaard could ball. She is Stevens Point Area High School's all-time leader in career points (1,344 points). En route to that milestone, Negaard jumped past the No. 1 pick from the 2005 WNBA Draft, Janel McCarville (who played against Drake head coach Jennie Baranczyk in college). So the expectations were, and, are high for Maggie Negaard at the next level. It was fun to watch her deliver in big moments, continue to blossom as a Bulldog and bust a move every time she could both on-and-off the floor.
Like her fellow classmate Maggie Negaard, Allie Wooldridge made big strides as a sophomore. Averaging the most minutes off the bench (18.4 MPG), Wooldridge used that extensive time on the floor to her advantage.
The Center Point, Iowa native averaged 4.0 points per game (career-high), 3.7 rebounds per game (5th on Drake), shot 36.6 percent from the field and finished third on the squad in total blocks (15). Wooldridge started to gain steam in Missouri Valley Conference play, setting new career single-game marks in both scoring (11 PTS at Indiana State) and rebounds (10 REB at Evansville) in the same month. The former Stormin' Pointer would score in 9-of-the-last-10 contests in league play, including a stretch of six-straight from February 9 to March 6.
Wooldridge asserted herself on the glass as well, grabbing four-or-more rebounds in 16 games, including eight-straight in conference action. Her multi-sport background (played volleyball and soccer at Center Point-Urbana High School) and athleticism has given her the upper hand in many one-on-one matchups below the basket. As Wooldridge continued to adapt to the college game last season, so too did her ability to make instinctual plays in the paint on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.
Without a doubt, 'Big Al' is beloved by her teammates, coaching staff, the radio guys and the fans. She's had the luxury of playing alongside a crew of talented and versatile forwards, including Becca Jonas, Sara Rhine and Becca Hittner. When you add everything together, plus the fact that she now has 60 games under her belt, Allie Wooldridge is poised to do even bigger things as a junior.