On May 27, John Brown University Head Women’s Basketball Coach, Jeff Soderquist, announced his 2020 signing class, consisting of eight prep student-athletes spanning four states, including five from the state of Arkansas. There are four guards and four forwards in the class, and they will join a program that was able to have a lot of success with their newcomers last season, as Tarrah Stephens was named the Sooner Athletic Conference’s Freshman of the Year, and Jessica Goldman was a key contributor off the bench.
Coach Soderquist, entering his 24th season leading the program, noted that, because of the team’s practice limitations due to the school’s COVID-19 restrictions, it was hard to get a complete assessment of how his team stacks up. The team has been unable to do any five-on-fives, so any first impressions made before that point can be wiped away or built upon once the whole team can be on the court together. Despite that, he sees a lot of potential in the team’s youth.
There are many players that can make an immediate impact, but Grace Latham is one that could make her presence especially known early on the defensive end. “She’s a great blocker,” Soderquist said, “I think the more that we’re able to get where she can figure out what we’re doing on offense, I think she can help right away, but that curve has been slow just because of the way that we haven’t been able to practice.”
Another player that Coach Soderquist is intrigued by is Megan Holloway, as he said, “We were happy to get her, and I think she has a lot of potential. We’ll see if she’s ready to go right away,” while noting that “she’s one that’s hard to tell because we haven’t been able to do five-on-fives.”
Soderquist also noted that Emily Sanders is a player that he had been recruiting over the last three years, and that, while she is currently in rehab coming off of an ACL injury from last year, the team anxiously awaits when she will be able to return to the court.
“I’m so excited to be a member of the JBU basketball program,” Sanders said, “It’s such a blessing to be able to be a part of such an amazing team that pushes each other to work hard and succeed in everything we do both on and off the court.”
Natalie Smith, who joins Sanders after playing with her at Bentonville High School, is also excited to get going. “Everyone that is part of the program wants us to succeed and is willing to support us not only within basketball, but also with school and our faith because, at the end of the day, that’s our top priorities,” Smith said.
The women’s basketball team has had to overcome lots of adversity this semester, as the start of their season has been postponed to January, and they have been unable to practice as a full team, but Coach Soderquist is proud of how his players have persevered.
“It can be very frustrating, but I’ve been pleased with how they’ve handled it and how we’ve gone about it. I told them at the beginning, ‘If anybody is made to do this, it’s us athletes.’ We’re constantly talking about perseverance and overcoming obstacles, so I said, ‘You guys are wired to handle this,’” Soderquist said.
Emily Sanders said that while she understands the postponement, “it is still hard to find patience while eagerly waiting for the season to come.” She continues, saying that “this postponement has affected our preparations for the season by challenging us to come in to practice every single day with high energy and positivity, no matter the circumstances.”