BeBlue Season Preview: Sophomores
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 sophomore class.
In her opening act at Drake, Maggie Bair displayed her potential on numerous occasions. Listed at 6'3", Bair is the tallest player on the Bulldogs roster. The Glen Ellyn, Illinois native utilized that height advantage to make plays on both ends of the floor.
Bair saw action in 23 games, averaging 2.3 points, 2.1 rebounds and shot 46.5 percent from the floor in roughly seven minutes per contest in 2019-20. She played extensive minutes in the first two months of her young career, logging 10-or-more minutes in 6-of-12 games during that span. Bair broke through in late November in Florida, scoring a season-high 13 points (5-7 FG) in Drake's bounce-back victory against Maine at the Gulf Coast Showcase. Following the Bulldogs' trip in the Sunshine State, she dropped nine points and collected a season-high seven rebounds against Waldorf. Bair's best performance in Missouri Valley Conference play came at home against Indiana State, where she scored nine points, snared-in two rebounds and nabbed two steals. Bair would eventually score five-or-more points in six games, while grabbing three-or-more rebounds in eight games.
The future for Maggie Bair at Drake is certainly bright. Let's not lose sight of what got her to the next level. Bair finished her prep career as Glenbard South's all-time leader in career points and rebounds. She averaged 16.7 points and 13.8 rebounds per game as a senior and helped guide the Raiders to a runner-up finish at state. She also turned heads as a sophomore, winning the State 3-Point Showdown in Illinois.
A versatile forward that knows how to win, and knows how to have fun as well. Big things are on the horizon for Maggie Bair.
January 17, 2019. Just over 600 days ago. That was the last time Grace Berg stepped on the court in a collegiate basketball game. The wait is almost over for the Indianola native.
Berg transferred to Drake after a brief stretch at Missouri where she played in 19 games for the Tigers, averaged 3.8 points, 1.7 rebounds and shot 52.0 percent from the floor in 12 minutes per game. Once she arrived back in Iowa, Berg spent the remaining portion of the 2018-19 season settling in to her new home. Leading up to the 2019-20 campaign, the anticipation was high for Berg's Drake debut. Unfortunately, her waiver and appeal to play at the start of the season was denied by the NCAA and Berg opted to redshirt. The process was difficult, but it never compromised her spirit and willingness to work hard in preparation for her return.
The buzz around Grace Berg started long ago, at Indianola High School which sits 22 miles away from Drake's campus. Over the course of a decorated prep career, she was a four-time all-state selection and named the 2018 Class 5A Player of the Year by the Iowa Basketball Coaches Association. She finished her career as the Indians all-time leader in career scoring (1,784 points), collected 807 total rebounds and shot a staggering 62.7 percent from the floor in her career. She shined on the biggest of stages. At the 2017 Iowa Girls State Basketball Tournament, Berg set a Class 5A scoring record, dropping 36 points in the quarterfinals. She guided the Indians to four-straight trips to state and compiled an 86-12 varsity record.
A "do-it-all" wing player, Berg was the No. 36 player in the 2018 recruiting class by espnW. Her talent is special, but her drive and work ethic has always set her apart. It runs in the family. Her father, Greg, wrestled at UNI. Her mother, Michel, played basketball at Coe College. Her younger brother, Miles, will wrestle at Central College. How much does family mean to Berg? She wears No. 43 because of her mom, who sported the same number when she played. Not to mention, she's got a special connection to my broadcast partner too.
Grace Berg has faced rounds of adversity in the last 600-plus days. As the old saying goes, 'there's light at the end of the tunnel'. Once Berg appears out of the tunnel, you best believe she'll be ready to shine.
Sarah Beth Gueldner
Sarah Beth Gueldner put everyone on notice in her first season at Drake. The Olathe, Kansas native was not shy at firing it from deep, finishing fourth on the squad in three-pointers (31).
She was especially confident in the friendly confines of the Knapp Center, making 60 percent of her total triples at home (19). When Gueldner got hot, look out. She made two-or-more three’s in seven games as a freshman.
She scored in double-figures in four games, and combined to knock down 16 triples in those contests. Gueldner first cracked the 10+ point club against Waldorf in the annual ‘Pack the Knapp Game’, scoring 15 points while knocking down five trey’s. She would better that output later in MVC play, scoring a season-high 16 points at home versus Valparaiso.
Of course, we knew that Gueldner could light it up. ‘SB‘ finished her prep career at Olathe Northwest High School as its all-time leader in career points (1,510) and three's (176), setting the new points record as a junior.
Gueldner is a phenomenal shooter. But she proved in head coach Jennie Baranczyk’s system that there was more to her game than spotting up for three’s. Gueldner gradually found ways to cut to the basket by using her basketball IQ and quickness. It suddenly became more difficult for teams to game plan against No. 34.
What is so impressive about Sarah Beth Gueldner is her confidence. She never hesitates. Through the ups-and-downs of a season, that confidence never broke. Don’t be surprised to see ‘SB’ take off as a sophomore.