One of the hallmarks of coach Lisa Fortier’s tenure as the head coach for the Gonzaga women’s basketball program has been the development of post players.
From Zykera Rice to Jill Townsend to Melody Kempton, we’ve seen so many talented players thrive after beginning their career in smaller roles.
For fans looking for the next name on that list, look no further than incoming junior Yvonne Ejim. Ejim has long been expected to take on a starting role next season, something coach Fortier confirmed on the Locked on Zags podcast Tuesday morning.
“She’s certainly ready,” Fortier said. “If I’ve gotten one message from some of our fans about whether Yvonne is going to start I’ve gotten 150,000. The way that it works, we had Ana (Virjoghe) and Mel (Melody Kempton) who were very different. Mel and Vonny (Ejim) were very similar in what they brought to the table, how they would attack [and use] their size. And so we just thought last year it was great to have Ana as a defensive player, as a shot blocker, a different kind of enforcer. And then you bring in Yvonne, you bring in Kaylynne Truong, and it changes things.”
Wile Virjoghe offered little offensively (3.7 points per game) she was a defensive enforcer, and being able to bring Ejim off the bench added instant scoring and energy for the Zags, which often caught opposing teams off guard and helped Ejim average 10.1 points and 5.8 rebounds in a reserve role.
“When you can bring energy off the bench, other teams sub and usually there’s a letdown,” Fortier continued. “But when we sub we are able to bring in even a more powerful hit. That’s a huge advantage for us.”
The Zags recently had a player who won the sixth woman of the year award turn around and have a monster season the following year. That was Kempton, who was an All-WCC first team member last year, and now Ejim will look to follow in her footsteps by becoming the team’s primary low post scorer.
“You had mentioned Destiny Burton and I think she’s going to be a nice role piece, but Yvonne is certainly ready to take over as that primary offensive post player,” Fortier stated. “She just continues to grow. She’s in the gym asking coach Craig (Fortier) if she can have harder workouts. And his are pretty hard. She’s really trying to expand her perimeter game, trying to get better at her drive game, she’s trying to guard better. She’s really interested in being her very best.”
“It’s really fun to coach players like that.”
Andy hosts the Locked on Zags and Locked on College Basketball podcasts, and serves Locked On in a marketing/digital content creator role as well. He lives just outside Portland with his wife Jenna and dog, Tillie.