Princeton women’s basketball unveils six-member recruiting class

The Princeton women’s team finished the 2017-2018 season 24-6 overall and 12-2 in the Ivy League. They opened up conference play with a 70-55 victory at the Palestra over two-time defending champion Penn and never looked back on their way to the regular season title. They dominated Yale and Penn in the Ivy Tournament to claim the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, their seventh appearance in the last nine years. Their magical season ended in a first round loss to the University of Maryland, the nation’s #16 team.

The Tigers had the Ivy League Player of the Year in sophomore forward Bella Alarie, who averaged 13.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 2.3 assists per game. Alarie, the league’s Rookie of the Year and a first team All-Ivy member in 2016-2017, was joined on this year’s first team by senior forward Leslie Robinson. Robinson, who was selected to last year’s second team All-Ivy, finished the season averaging 10.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per contest.

Courtney Banghart was named the Ivy League Coach of the Year for the second time in her career and the first time since she led the school to an undefeated 30-0 regular season record in 2014-2015. The former two-time first team All-Ivy Dartmouth guard completed this year with her sixth regular season Ivy championship, eighth 20-plus win season and eighth 11-plus conference win season in her 11th year at Old Nassau.

Since the end of the season, Robinson was chosen in the second round (#34 overall) of the WNBA Draft by the New York Liberty.  Unfortunately, she was released by the team just before the start of the regular season. Tia Weledji and Kenya Holland graduated along with Robinson.  Weledji, a member of the 2017 Cameroon national team, started 28 games over the last two seasons and averaged 6.4 points per game over that time.  Holland played in 99 games in her four years, averaging 13.3 minutes and 3.2 points per contest.

In addition to the graduation of the senior leadership, Princeton is losing the services of assistant coach Milena Flores. Flores, who played her college ball at Stanford, has been with coach Banghart for all 11 years.  After a professional career in the WNBA and Europe, she assisted at Pacific, Lehigh and Yale before joining the Tigers. She worked primarily with the guards in her first five seasons, then focused on teaching the post players since the start of the 2012-2013 season. According to the author at Princeton’s TigerBlog, who unofficially ranks Flores and Bill Carmody as the school’s all-time top assistants, the coach will be returning back home to the Seattle area.

Among all those changes, Princeton announced the newest members of the program that will attempt to help the team repeat its Ivy championship and extend its streak of nine consecutive postseason appearances.

Maggie Connolly is a 5′ 8″ guard from Ursuline Academy in Delaware. She was named the state’s 2017-2018 Player of the Year by the Delaware Sportswriter and Broadcasters Association and was selected as the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2016-2017. Over her four years, she scored 1,115 points and was named first team All-State three times.

Julia Cunningham is a 5′ 11″ guard from Watchung Hills Regional High School in Central New Jersey. This past season, she averaged 17.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 3.5 steals per game. In her time at WHRHS, she totaled 1,718 points, 738 rebounds, 360 assists, 324 steals, and 167 blocks. She finished this season by being chosen first team All-Central New Jersey by the Courier News, second team All-State by USA Today, and third team All-State by NJ.com.

Kira Emsbo is a 6′ 5″ forward from Lakewood High School in Colorado. She missed a significant period of time in her junior year due to an early season elbow injury.  As she was gearing up for her senior season, she tore her ACL during a summer club game and missed all of 2017-2018.  According to Dennis Pleuss of CHSAA Now, Emsbo was scheduled to have surgery on her ACL in mid-November followed by a 6 to 9 month recovery period. ESPN lists her as a 3-star recruit with agility, front court versatility and a shot blocking presence.

Grace Stone is a 5′ 11″ shooting guard from Long Island Lutheran High School in New York. The New York State Sportswriter Association (NYSSWA) named her to the third team All-State in her junior year and fourth team in her sophomore campaign. She was named to the All-Long Island team all four years and first team three times. Prospects Nation lists her as the #143 national recruit and the #32 ranked guard. According to Rivals.com, Stone had offers from Georgia Tech, Virginia, Wisconsin, Seton Hall and Texas A&M.

Neenah Young is a 6′ 0″ wing from St. Mary’s High School in Northern California. In her senior year, she averaged 14.0 points, 2.4 made threes, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.8 steals a game. She completed her high school career with 1,209 points, 177 made threes, 448 rebounds, 246 steals, and 169 assists. This past season, she was named to the Calhi Sports third team All-State. Prospects Nation lists her as being the #115 overall recruit and the #18 wing, while ASGR lists her as the nations #134 recruit.

Lexi Weger is a 6′ 3″ guard/forward from Episcopal High School in Northern Virginia. Her career numbers include her school’s all time scoring record of 1,458 points, as well as 744 rebounds and 341 blocks. In the spring of 2018, she was named to the VISAA Division 1 second team by the Richmond Times Dispatch and Honorable Mention All-Metropolitan (D.C.) by the Washington Post.

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