Penn’s women's basketball finished the 2022-23 season with a 17-12 winning record, which it hope to continue this year with a new slate of fresh players to carry the team to championship trophies this season.
A new season brings new players, and new coaches too. In addition to five new freshmen players, Penn has brought on a new assistant coach, Andre Gibbs, who was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for Utah State. Previously an accountant, Gibbs started coaching as a volunteer at Bryn Mawr College.
“I just wanted to help out and be a part of the women’s basketball program and [I] fell in love with the process [at Bryn Mawr],” he said of his beginnings in coaching. He then moved to coaching at Utah State, and upon seeing the open position at Penn, made the transition back to the Philadelphia area.
Not a newcomer this year, coach Mike McLaughlin moves into his fifteenth season at the helm of the program. The twenty-time Conference Coach of the Year is one of only 20 Division I active coaches with over 600 wins, holding a 635-210 career record. Looking ahead to the upcoming season, McLaughlin is excited to see what the team brings to the court.
On Oct. 21, the team opened its season with the annual Red and Blue Scrimmage, where “they competed at a really high level” according to McLaughlin. “There are a lot of areas [we need] to improve on, [but] their energies, the way they competed, is a great start.”
“Something special is definitely brewing. They love to compete and they’re playing hard every single day,” Gibbs added on the team’s new connection.
A new face to keep an eye out for is freshman guard Mataya Gayle. With potential to be a starter this season, the three-time Regional Champion won the Georgia State Championships her senior season. “It definitely was different coming in, but over the past two months, we’re starting to get the hang of it and it’s been a lot of fun,” she said.
Among other freshmen, shooting guard Abby Sharpe is likely to make a splash this season. A local player from Lafayette Hill, Pa., Sharpe won both the District and State Championships as captain of her high school team in 2022.
“I’m excited for the Big 5 games. Being a local, I have gone to them before and I also know a lot of players on St. Joes [and] Villanova’s [teams], so I’m excited to be able to compete against them,” Sharpe said.
The other freshmen rounding out a deep Red and Blue roster include center Tina Njike, guard Ese Ogbevire, and forward Tobi Ademuwagun. Njike finished her high school career with over 1,000 points and 800 rebounds while picking up three First-Team All-State and First-Team All-Region recognitions. Ogbevire will bring speed and elite decision making to the court. The Katy, Texas native all tallied up more than 1,000 points in high school was named the 2023 regional champion. As for Ademuwagun, fans can expect high-scoring performances and physicality on both sides of the ball from the Texas All-State honoree.
The team also returns star talents like senior forwards Jordan Obi and Floor Toonders, who each played in all 29 games last campaign, starting in 28. Last season, Obi averaged 32.1 minutes per game, scoring a total of 366 points, and led the team in defensive rebounds at 182. Toonders averaged over 30 minutes per game, totaling 179 season points, and led the team with 32 blocked shots.
The women’s basketball season officially kicks off on Saturday Nov. 11 with a home game against Marist at the Palestra.