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The future is Yvonne Ejim

How the freshman shined in her opportunities throughout 2020-2021

NCAA Women’s Basketball-WCC Tournament-BYU vs Gonzaga Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

From the beginning, we knew that Calgary’s Yvonne Ejim was going to be a special recruit headed into her freshman year. The 6’1” forward was Miss Basketball Alberta and a member of Canada’s FIBA National Team.

As an undersized forward, Ejim plays with a high motor that helps her as solid rebounder and scorer. She has phenomenal handles for a forward, which made her a matchup nightmare even coming into her freshman season.

The only thing that could slow down Ejim was the amount of upperclassmen ahead of her. Ejim had to fight to pry minutes from junior Melody Kempton and to help spell both Jenn and Leanne Wirth. She ended up averaging 6.5 minutes and 3.7 points per game.

Ejim is clearly the next big thing for the Zags, as we saw her step up in the WCC championship game against BYU. Coach Lisa Fortier plugged Ejim in as the team dealt with a litany of illness. She played 21 minutes and showed up on both ends of the court.

She scored 13 points and recorded 9 rebounds and helped keep the Zags in the game leading up to Jill Townsend’s buzzer beating shot. Her 4 offensive rebounds were crucial in the team’s comeback efforts. With the increased workload, she still maintained high energy and a high shooting percentage (50% for the night).

And that performance bears out with her 40 minute projections, where she paced for 22.82 points and 12.7 rebounds. Her post play and driving is promising as she found great looks to shoot throughout the season, finishing in the top two in shooting for the team (with a minimum of 50 field goal attempts). Her athleticism is evident on any ball screens that leads to paths to the basket or mismatch switches.

Her next steps are to continue filling out the rest of her game, progressing her defensive reads and post defense. It’s likely that more minutes and reps would be the way for Ejim to advance herself as a shot challenger and pest in passing lanes and on the ball. She did record 8 steals in her limited minutes, which would equate to about the top 5 in the team per minutes logged.

With the leading shot takers in Townsend and Jenn Wirth leaving, it’s hard to imagine Ejim not instantly becoming a focal point for Fortier’s offense. Her athleticism should allow Fortier to play Ejim not only with center Anamaria Virjoghe but potentially with similarly sized Kempton for a havoc-causing pace.

Surely for fans and Fortier alike, it’s reassuring to know that a player of the calibre of Ejim is available to plug into the absence left by Townsend and the Wirth twins. We could be looking at a reload rather than a rebuild.