Nia Coffey will – and should – go down as one of the most successful athletes in Northwestern history.
Having just finished her rookie WNBA season, Coffey has an almost endless list of accomplishments in her time at NU: she was all-B1G all four years, she averaged at least 15 points-per-game every season, and she’s the all-time leading rebounder and shot-blocker for the ‘Cats. Her page on the NU sports website is long enough to be a book, and now head coach Joe McKeown has to replace her.
Photo by Mia Zanzucchi / North by Northwestern
In his words, though, he can’t: “You don't replace her,” McKeown said, “you just create some opportunities for younger players.”
Coffey was a 6-foot-1 do-it-all forward that led the team in points and rebounds last year. There’s no clear replacement on the roster (Northwestern went with a three-guard starting five against Chicago State), and no single player will pick up Coffey’s production, but contributions from a few different players could help fill the sizable void left by Coffey as well as departing seniors Ashley Deary and Christen Inman.
Scheid, a 6-foot-2 forward/center, is probably the most similar player to Coffey on the roster. Although she never started as a true freshman last year, she played in every game, averaging almost 20 minutes per game. On a team this young, Scheid has more experience than most, and she showed flashes of dominance last year, including a 20-point outburst against Ohio State.
“Abi Scheid [is] probably the most experienced player we've had in big games,” McKeown said, “so we're going to lean on her in a lot of ways.”
Scheid may not ever be the rebounder that Coffey was, but she shot an impressive 41 percent from deep last year, suggesting that she might be able to stretch the floor in a way that Coffey couldn’t.
Senior Lydia Rohde, a 5-foot-10 guard who started 14 games last season, won’t be taking up Coffey’s on-court role, but fans can expect her to take on a leadership role on this (very) young team. One of the captains along with Amber Jamison, Rohde is one of the few players that McKeown openly named a starter during the preseason.
Rohde, a walk-on her freshman year that averaged just four minutes per game, has steadily improved and finally earned a consistent starting spot in her fourth and final season.
“She's involved in everything, everyone on the team looks up to her, respects her on and off the court, McKeown said. “[She's] probably got the best work ethic of anybody that's been in our program in years.”
Abbie Wolf and Oceana Hamilton
The pair of 6-foot-4 centers are the tallest players on the roster and could be a sneaky contributors despite not playing much last season. Coffey will be missed in every aspect of the game, but her rebounding (10.4 boards per game last season) will be tough to replace with a roster that lacks much height.
Hamilton, a senior that transferred from Alabama, averaged just under 10 minutes per game during her first year as a Wildcat. Wolf played even less, averaging just 4.4 minutes per game. Their size speaks for itself though, and they’ll have to be primary rebounders if Northwestern wants to hang with the taller Big Ten teams.
“I can't name a team in our league that doesn't have somebody 6-foot-4 [or] 6-foot-5 that they get the ball to, that can guard,” McKeown said.
To be clear, neither Wolf nor Hamilton will become Nia Coffey overnight – but perhaps they can at least make up for some of the missing rebounds. This will be a rebuilding year for the ‘Cats, to be sure, but look out for these players (as well as a few new faces) to try to make up for Coffey’s historic success.