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With five new players signed, Plitzuweit continuing to put pieces together for first season

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In her first month as the leader of the WVU women’s basketball program, Dawn Plitzuweit has rebuilt nearly half of the roster. Five new players have signed and they will soon blend in with seven returners.

Plitzuweit could sign up to three more players to meet the NCAA scholarship limit of 15 players.

“They fit who we are and how we want to play. It was a combination and it seems to come together. We are at a spot right now where we could add a few more. But they have to be the right fit for us,” Plitzuweit said.

The latest newcomer to sign is the lone high school player in the class. Imarianah “Mari” Russell previously committed to play for Mike Carey but opened her recruitment during the coaching change. Russell was the Ohio Division I Player of the Year in 2021-22 and the runner-up for the Ohio Ms. Basketball Award.

“I reached out to her the day the [hiring] announcement was made and talked to both Mari and her parents. We rebuilt that connection and trust. We had the opportunity over the course of a few weeks to really get connected with her and with people that she knows.

“Obviously, her brother Hammond is here on the football team and it will be great for their family to have both of their kids here. We’re really excited about her. She is a competitor. She is someone who is incredibly versatile. She talks. She plays really, really hard. She wins at the highest level.”

The remainder of the current class is comprised of Division I transfers: Kylee Blacksten (Colorado), Kyah Watson (South Dakota), Sarah Bates (Georgia Tech) and Tavy Diggs (TCU).

Among the seven returners, multi-year starter Madisen Smith, Jayla Hemingway (30 starts last season), JJ Quinerly (12 starts in freshman season) and Savannah Samuel (played in 30 games) are back. They are joined by three players who redshirted a year ago (Isis Beh, Messiah Hunter and Wynter Rogers). Plitzuweit says many steps are involved in the evaluations of the returners.

“We look at stats and we try to get to know the player a little bit. But that can be skewed because it is a different system, a different style. We go back and we watch film. Our workouts with them — we had three weeks to workout together. And I think the fourth piece is getting to know them, sitting down and talking to them and hearing what they want, where they see themselves and what they want for their future. I have been very encouraged by the young ladies we have had a chance to work with. They are very hungry and they want to do well. So it has been a lot of fun.”

Plitzuweit and her staff are continuing to build the team’s 2022-2023 non-conference schedule. In future years, Plitzuweit hopes to schedule opponents that may match styles of Big 12 opponents.

“There’s a variety of styles, probably more than any ‘Power 5’ conference in the country. This year, we are trying to finalize our non-conference schedule. We may not have as many opportunities to go out and evaluate and try to select teams that play similar to other teams in the league. Eventually, that is where you want to get to. You want to have that exposure before you get into Big 12 play.”

Plitzuweit and her staff are also putting together plans for annual summer camps while getting settled into their new homes in Morgantown.

“We’re trying to get connected with some of the alumni that we haven’t met yet. That’s something that we haven’t had as much of an opportunity to do as we would like to yet. We’re looking at how to get involved in the community. We haven’t had a great chance to do that but we’re looking to start a lot of those activities in June. Personally, we are also trying to get our family moved here.”

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