February 24, 2021 

Syracuse’s Tiana Mangakahia bound for WNBA; Strautmane considering a return

Plus much more from around the ACC

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Syracuse’s Digna Strautmane lofts up a shot at Louisville on Jan. 21, 2021. (Jared Anderson / ACC)

Because of the pandemic, the NCAA is not counting the 2020-21 season toward eligibility clocks for athletes competing in winter sports. So, seniors can come back and play next season, if they choose to do so.

This is something that Syracuse forward Digna Strautmane is considering.

“Obviously, it’s all up in the air … We’re definitely going to think about it,” Strautmane said during a Zoom call Wednesday. “Obviously, COVID plays a big role. I’m considering it, for sure. I don’t really know what’s going to happen in my life in the next few months, but I’m definitely considering coming back.”

Should Strautmane decide to return to upstate New York for an extra season, she would provide an unexpected boost to the Orange next year.

A 6’2 forward from Latvia, Strautmane has started in every game she’s appeared in for Syracuse over her four-year career there. She’s versatile and has been a key cog in head coach Quentin Hillsman’s zone defense.

This season, Strautmane is averaging 7.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. She’s also blocked 19 shots, dished out 28 assists, and notched 26 steals in 17 games. She’s shooting 36.7% from the floor but is a perfect 9-for-9 from the charity stripe.

Syracuse (11-6; 8-6 ACC) will have its senior day on Sunday when it hosts No. 2 N.C. State. The Orange’s other seniors include Tiana Mangakahia, Kiara Lewis, and Amaya Finklea-Guity.

It’ll be the last game in the Carrier Dome for at least one of them. Mangakahia said Wednesday that she is “100% sure” this is her last season in college.

“I want to go pro,” she said. “And I feel ready.”

Mangakahia sat out last season while battling breast cancer, and the numbers this season say she’s just as good as she was before her diagnosis. Her 7.7 assists per game lead the ACC and are second-best in the nation, according to Her Hoop Stats, and her 44.7% assist-percentage is fourth-best in the country. She’s also averaging 11.5 points and 3.6 rebounds per game while shooting 42.7% from the floor, 34.9% from three, and 84.4% from the foul line.

“If anyone has 600-plus days off, and comes back and leads the country in assists, that’s an amazing accomplishment. I don’t even know what to say (about that),” Hillsman said. “Tiana has been what she’s always been: very steady, trying to lead our team by example and playing the hardest she can play.”

ESPN’s latest WNBA mock draft projects the Australian point guard to be picked in the third round.

After watching a recent game between Arizona and Stanford, Mangakahia was struck by the play of Aari McDonald of the Wildcats, leading her to believe she should take more shots to improve her WNBA draft stock. Mangakahia, a two-time Lieberman Award finalist, has attempted fewer than 10 shots in a game nine times this season and is averaging just 8.7 FGA per game, which ranks 841st in the nation.

“I would say I need to shoot the ball more, honestly,” Mangakahia said. “It really opened up my mind (watching McDonald). It really opened up my eyes and I feel like I need to shoot more. My percentage is good. I don’t know, maybe that’s what I need to do … for coaches to see my talent.

“I’m just trying to do everything I can to be the best and perform the best when we play. Especially against N.C. State. I think that is my opportunity to show teams what I can do.”

As for Syracuse’s other seniors, it’s unclear what their decisions will be. The Orange will honor them either way on senior day.

“We haven’t really discussed that yet,” Hillsman said on the prospect of seniors returning for an extra season. “This year is still going on, so I have no idea. I have no inkling. We really don’t discuss a lot of things that don’t have to [do] with winning or losing right now.”

ACC extras

  • The McDonald’s All-American game won’t be played this year due to COVID-19, but the rosters are littered with young women who have committed to ACC schools. North Carolina leads the way with three prospects on this year’s team in Destiny Adams, Teonni Key, and Kayla McPherson. Notre Dame’s Sonia Citron also made the 24-player team, as did Louisville’s Payton Verhulst.

  • Haley Gorecki is back in the WNBA as the Seattle Storm re-signed their 2020 draft pick to a training camp deal ahead of this coming season. The former two-time All-ACC selection for Duke spent her first pro season playing in Spain, where she averaged 9.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game for Casademont Zaragoza. The Storm picked Gorecki 31st overall last year, but she didn’t make the squad for the regular season.

  • UNC head coach Courtney Banghart said this after the Tar Heels’ loss to N.C. State on Sunday: “We didn’t shoot well for sure, but I don’t love a lot of the shots we took in that first half. Some of them were open and we need to make those, but if you think about how we generate looks, there’s a rhythmic way to play basketball and we were out of rhythm for sure in the first half.”

  • Pitt’s Dayshanette Harris has been dealing with a knee injury she suffered in the Panthers’ loss to Louisville last Thursday. Head coach Lance White told Pittsburgh Sports Now that he hopes resting Harris will allow for the knee to heal. Meanwhile, Gabbie Green is dealing with an ankle injury but should be ready to play against N.C. State on Thursday.

  • Virginia Tech’s Alex Obouh Fegue entered the transfer portal late last month, according to a source close to the situation. She is no longer listed on the Hokies’ active roster online. The 6’4 redshirt junior from France last played two minutes for Virginia Tech on Jan. 21 in the Hokies’ loss to Notre Dame.

Written by Mitchell Northam

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