The 2021-2022 season will be a new look for head coach Lisa Fortier and the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The three leading scorers Jill Townshend, LeAnne and Jenn Wirth moved on and now so too must the Zags.
With that much leadership and offense out of the door, leaning on anything familiar will be an absolute necessity. And there may be no steadier hand than the shooting hand of senior Cierra Walker, who immediately steps into a veteran role for a young Gonzaga team.
The Oregon City native will no doubt continue to be the number one option for the Zags outside. She shot 40.5% from three last year, after shooting 39.3% and 42.5% her junior and sophomore years at Vanderbilt. Her attempt total will likely balloon as well now that she will be a top option alongside sophomore Yvonne Ejim and senior Melody Kempton.
Walker’s shooting will be major for the Zags’ ability to withstand the loss in offense by Tonwshend and Jenn Wirth’s absence. Her reliably putting up good looks will help give Ejim space to drive and penetrate from the wing and help Kempton and Anamarie Virjoghe try to replace those Wirth post possessions.
The sharpshooter will likely continue to help as the off-ball guard with the Truong twins, senior Abby O’Connor and incoming five-star freshman Bree Salenbien. Her high IQ and defensive prowess will be leaned on heavily as Fortier tries different rotations in the back court.
A major progression for Walker’s game would be the ability to add more looks off the dribble and with contact. She only made it to the charity stripe 15 times last year, but sank 14 of her free throw attempts. Getting to the line hasn’t been completely absent in her game (she shot 44 attempts her junior year at Vanderbilt), but took a bit of a backseat with the offense largely flowing through Townshend and the post.
Considering the consistency of Walker’s shooting and defense throughout her four years on the court, Gonzaga is incredibly fortunate to have a scorer who can play efficiently at any volume. Expect to see Walker have a career year and the Zags to be immensely grateful for it.