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Indiana basketball, Teri Moren and raising the bar

Entering year ten, Teri Moren’s building project is all but over.

Syndication: The Herald-Times Bobby Goddin/Herald-Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

If you take a glance at Indiana’s accomplishments in women’s basketball, there’s a clear common denominator.

An Elite Eight, multiple consecutive NCAA Tournament bids, a First Team All-American and a Big Ten championship, they all have something in common: head coach Teri Moren.

Honestly, if you were to write a book about a coach bringing this program to prominence you’d have a hard time finding a better storyline than Moren. After growing up in Seymour rooting for Indiana and graduating from Purdue, the majority of her coaching journey has been in the state.

From UIndy to Indiana State then from there to Indiana, few things are a better example of what basketball means in the state than Moren. Now she’s taken Indiana basketball from a tourney bid every so often to a No. 1 seed expected to contend for national championships.

She’s built Indiana. Now it’s time to sustain it. For the first time in years, Indiana will be without Grace Berger, who’s off to the professional ranks.

It all starts with recruiting, as Moren says.

“Recruiting has changed for us in terms of the talent pool that we’re now recruiting,” she said. “We’re up against the very best. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”

It shows in the Hoosiers’ latest class. Freshmen Lenee Beaumont and Jules LaMendola were both named Ms. Basketball of their home states, Illinois and Texas, respectively. Both are high-level players who should have an instant impact.

Additionally, the Hoosiers landed former Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year Sharnecce Currie-Jelks out of the transfer portal. When asked about potential breakout players, Moren pointed to the program’s three offseason additions.

“The three that we brought in, those new kids are going to have to help us, and they’re going to have to grow up quicker than normal,” she said. “We usually say by the time that they return from Christmas break you’re no longer freshmen. You’ve got to be wiser and you have to grow up faster. I think we’re going to need the three of them from the beginning right out of the gates to show up and give us really good minutes, and I think they’re capable of that.”

Currie-Jelks in particular will need to support returning All-American Mackenzie Holmes in the post, Moren said. Indiana’s depth at forward grew thin with injuries to both Holmes and Kiandra Browne, with the Hoosiers relying on freshman Lilly Meister in NCAA Tournament play.

“The last two years, Mack has battled some injuries down the stretch, and so I’m not going to call it load management, but I will say that we’re going to have to try to protect Mack as well as we can in practices, long practices,” Moren said. “I think you’re going to see a young lady in Sharnecce that’s going to continue to improve inside of our program and really, really help us.”

The additional talent adds onto returning starters like Holmes, Chloe Moore-McNeil, Sydney Parrish and Yarden Garzon.

Holmes will look to return to her All-American form after suffering an injury down the stretch of the 2022-23 season, Moore-McNeil will look to take yet another step as a star, Parrish will bring her usual energy and Garzon will build off of her impressive freshman season.

Moore-McNeil took strides as the primary ballhandler when Berger went down with an injury last season and usually earned the team’s top assignment on defense. She’s improved every year she’s been in Bloomington and could be primed for an All-Big Ten caliber season.

There’s also Sara Scalia, who ended the season coming off the bench, who should be ready for a larger role entering year two in Bloomington.

Parrish will likely take on more of a leadership role alongside Holmes, as Berger had followed in Ali Patberg’s footsteps as the heart of the team in 2022-23. She’ll also maintain the high-motor play that made her an instant fit through the portal.

Garzon was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team as a freshman after shooting 45.8% (second all-time at Indiana) from the perimeter, setting an Indiana freshman record for 3-pointers made in a season.

But the staff has plans to expand her game. Moren said they’re working on her skills in the post, like Grace Berger before her. Garzon is tall for a guard at 6’3’, the same height as Holmes, and Indiana wants to use that.

“We feel like we can do some unique things because she’s a big guard and put her in positions with her back to the basket and not always revert back to her little fadeaway, that international fadeaway that she brought with her from Israel,” Moren said.

Scalia was a prolific shooter at Minnesota, giving Indiana trouble in Assembly Hall two years ago, before joining the Hoosiers last season. She had multiple impressive games down the stretch and will look to build on that momentum.

With an open starting spot there’ll be plenty of competition between Scalia and rising sophomores like Lexus Bargesser and Henna Sandvik. Don’t discount the ongoing development of Lilly Meister either.

No matter how the rotation ends up going, Moren knows that the expectations for her program have been raised.

“Anytime that you have the opportunity to get to a Sweet 16, get to an Elite 8, the way we have and you realize it’s just that one game and you’re playing for a Final Four, you’re playing for a National Championship, we’ve tasted it, if you will,” Moren said. “We know what it takes to get there. There’s no question that we have everything we need in order to be able to do that, to win a National Championship.”