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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

First-year fab five looking to make a difference on the court


The St. Joe’s women’s basketball team welcomes five first-year players this season, the largest first-year cohort since the 2014-
2015 season.

While they still have a lot to learn, these players stand out from previous first-year classes, according to Head Coach Cindy Griffin.

“[The] five freshmen have probably a little more talent than freshmen in the past,” Griffin said at St. Joe’s women’s basketball media day on Oct. 21. “From the speed and athletic standpoint, they’re pretty darn good.”

Personifying that athleticism is Mackenzie Smith, a guard from East Jordan, Nova Scotia, Canada. According to fifth-year guard Katie Jekot, Smith is strong, likes to attack the glass for rebounds and possesses some uncanny leaping ability.

“She can jump out of this gym, it’s crazy,” Jekot said at media day.

Smith’s eye-catching hops are juxtaposed with a straight-forward and determined mentality.

“I come in with the mindset of let’s play, let’s work hard and let’s win,” Smith said at media day.

Joining Smith in the first-year class is Talya Brugler, a forward from Nazareth Area High School near Allentown, Pennsylvania. Brugler is a capable shooter that will add versatility to the team’s offense, according to Jekot.

“It’s really nice to have her at the four spot to have her post up and also spread her out on the perimeter,” Jekot said.

Like Smith, Brugler said that she is also focused on winning.

“I’m looking forward to keeping the championship culture that they have,” Brugler said at media day. “That was one of the reasons that I chose St. Joe’s.”

Perhaps no first-year player knows more about the Hawks’ culture than first-year guard Kaylie Griffin, daughter of head coach Cindy Griffin. Kaylie Griffin estimated that she’s spent 50 percent of her life around the program.

“I grew up here,” Kaylie Griffin said at media day. “My mom’s been here since I was born. I grew up around the players and in this atmosphere so I wanted to be a part of that.”

Though Coach Griffin said Kaylie Griffin’s speed and athleticism can be worked on, she trusts that her daughter has a high basketball IQ.

“I would feel very confident giving her the ball and letting her run the offense,” Griffin said at media day.

The Hawks added another first year guard, Julia Nyström, hailing from Lund, Sweden. Nyström is the second European guard to play for the team in recent years, following in the footsteps of Lula Roig, of Barcelona, Spain, who played from 2017-2021.

Nyström, who serves as the starting point guard for the Swedish Youth National Team, said that she will look to create plays
on both ends of the court.

“Offensively, I can create opportunities for my teammates and also for myself,” Nyström said at media day. “Defensively, I look to bring energy and put pressure on the other team’s guards.”

Rounding out the class is Laila Fair, a forward from Middlesex, New Jersey. According to Fair, one of three players on the Hawks’ roster listed at six feet and two inches, she plans to use her height to her advantage.

“I look forward to rebounding for the team,” Fair said at media day. “I think I can provide a lot of offensive rebounds.”

According to Fair, she became drawn to St. Joe’s in part because of the atmosphere in the team’s locker room on her visit to the university.

“It was very family oriented,” Fair said.

The team’s returning players have already forged a bond with the first-years, according to junior guard Kaliah Henderson. Henderson said at media day that she’s excited to play with the first year players when the Hawks tip off their season on Nov. 9.

“They bring in a lot of knowledge even though they’re freshmen,” Henderson said. “They’re just fun to play with.”

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