Julianna LaMendola was a force in Texas high school basketball, averaging 17.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists for Coppell High School en route to a Final Four appearance and Texas Gatorade Player of the Year odds.
Other players to have earned the Texas Player of the Year title? Tamika Catchings and Brittney Griner. Absolutely incredible company.
“What has made her so special is she has really had to work for it,” Coppell coach Ryan Murphy told the Dallas Morning News. “She is not someone who came in as a heralded freshman or even a sophomore. She wasn’t on anyone’s radar. She really had to get in the gym and embrace the grind and develop that work ethic. And the amount of time that she has spent with her trainer, Jarell English, who I think he deserves a ton of credit for this, it’s really incredible. She has had a goal, and every step of the way she has kind had a chip on her shoulder because the goal wasn’t happening.”
That sounds an awful lot like a Hoosier.
With the highs reached by Teri Moren and staff in the regular season and tournament play, so too rises the recruiting ceiling. LaMendola was rated as a four-star by ESPN in the class of 2023 albeit without any sort of detailed evaluation behind that rating.
She has all the usual traits the staff looks for in guards: outstanding work ethic, size at the position and the ability to score from multiple levels.
On the court
LaMendola has a good all-around game at the guard position, it’s hard to pick out just one thing she does at a high level because it’s a bit of everything.
Indiana’s offense prioritizes ball movement to find the best shot on a given possession. Watching a bit of how Coppell played, it’s not too dissimilar. And LaMendola could operate multiple ways in that system.
She has the size, athleticism and skill at guard to get buckets in the post with a few moves down low. Indiana has the top post player in the country on the roster right now with the same coaching staff that brought her along.
With Teri Moren looking to prioritize post play with another taller guard, Yarden Garzon, the same could be in LaMendola’s future with a willingness to play through the contact present throughout Big Ten play.
She was incredible during the team’s trip to Greece, piling up a statline of 15 points, 4 rebounds and four assists on the Greek All-Stars. There’s only so much that can be taken from these offseason exhibitions, but how she scored is important.
LaMendola knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers and displayed the confidence needed to fire from the perimeter.
Speaking of the Greece trip, there was a moment during one of Indiana’s two games when LaMendola tore the ball from the arms of one of the Greek All-Stars and got down the court in transition.
That’s the high-motor play that’s prevalent throughout the roster and a priority in the Hoosiers’ recruiting strategy.
Defense is always going to be the priority for Moren’s Indiana program and, while the tape on LaMendola is a bit limited, we know enough to say she’s capable on that end of the floor.
She has the length to keep her assignment in front of her and the defensive instincts/athleticism to get blocks from the guard position. It’ll be interesting to see how she handles closeouts at the college level when need be.
LaMendola won’t need a year on the bench to contribute. She’s good enough to come off the bench and provide a boost on both ends of the court immediately and Indiana has come far enough as a program to sign players like that.