AZUSA, Calif.-- After losing five players to graduation from last year’s NAIA quarterfinals team, Azusa Pacific women’s basketball head coach T.J. Hardeman has restocked the squad with the signing of three newcomers. The Cougars, who enter their first season in the Pacific West conference, will bring in two freshmen and one transfer.
Headlining the list is former Metro State point guard Sullivan Ziegler, who steps in to help ease the loss of four-year starter Briana Hall. Azusa Pacific also adds to the front court with the signings of forward Kelly Hardeman, head coach Hardeman's niece, and forward/center Lauren Gilster. Azusa Pacific loses three post-players from last year, including all-American center Amber Williams, who recorded one of the program’s most dominating seasons as a senior.
“It’s going to be a big job to replace who we’re losing. You don’t replace those players, instead you start focusing on what those new strengths will be. I think the girls we’re bringing in are all smart, unselfish, and team-oriented. They all want to get better to improve their game,” said Hardeman. “They’ll help us be dangerous in a lot of different spots. I think we’ll be faster and be able to put a lot of people on the floor that can handle the ball.
SULLIVAN ZIEGLER: Incoming sophomore -5’ 5”- Point Guard - Metro State (Colo.).
Ziegler is the prototypical point guard. She runs the floor well, pushes the ball, and has a good feel for the court. She missed last season at Metro State with a back injury, but played in 28 games as a true freshman, helping the Roadrunners to an Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA tournament. Ziegler was a McDonald’s all-American nominee coming out of Heritage High School in Littleton, Colo. and is expected the bolster the point guard position in her first year with Azusa Pacific.
KELLY HARDEMAN: Incoming freshman - 6’ - Forward - Faith Academy (Philippines)
Played high school basketball at Faith Academy in Manila, Philippines, where she helped lead the Vanguards to a Far East Division I championship in 2012, earning co-MVP honors in the championship tournament after tabbing 27 points, 18 rebounds, and nine steals in the title game against Kadena (Japan). Hardeman is a combo-forward that can play inside and out with a very good shot. Has a high motor, and brings a lot of high school post experience. She was also named Stripes.com Athlete of the Quarter. Played three sports in high school, lettering in volleyball, basketball, and track.
LAUREN GILSTER: Incoming freshman - 6’ 2” - Forward/Center - Valley Center High School
Gilster was a three-sport star at Valley Canter, earning all-conference recognition in volleyball, basketball and track & field. Gilster averaged 14.9 points and 7.3 rebounds as a senior for a team that went 25-4 and reached the CIF Div. III quarterfinals. She brings an aggressive and relentless work ethic on and off the court, and could step right in to help the Cougars transition from the loss of Williams, Jasmyn Reed, and Rebecca Roehrkasse. Gilster was a shot put and discus champion in the Valley League, and placed fifth at the CIF championship, helping Valley Center to a title in track & field.