A Deep Dive Into the Women’s Basketball 2020 Signing Class

Southern Utah University women’s basketball announced the signing of three players from different parts of the world. Each signing took place on November 11, the first day players could sign to their future teams. 

Signees include Aishah Anis, a 5’7” guard out of Tasmania, Emily Kulstad, a 6’1” forward/center out of Prior Lake, Minnesota, and Amoret Maxwell, a 5’11” guard out of Glendale, Arizona.

Each player brings their own unique skill set to the roster, here’s a look at what each player will bring to the program.

Emily Kulstad

Play 1: The ball swings from the top of the key to the mid-post. Center Emily Kulstad, realizing she’s out of position, relocates from the deep post to the corner. Her defender stays on ball, doubling the guard in the post, meanwhile, Kulstad stands in the corner in shooting position, ready for the pass out from the guard. The guard makes a move and flips it out to Kulstad for a corner three. Kulstad’s release is too quick for the retreating defender. Swish.

This is common of Kulstad. Standing at 6’1, Kulstad’s home on the court is in the post. But her shooting touch makes the casual fan think otherwise.

Kulstad is perfectly comfortable stepping behind the three-point line and letting it fly. She has a high and fast release, making it nearly impossible for defenders to block the shot.

Play after play, Kulstad can be seen relocating every time a guard drives in the paint, a testament to her basketball IQ. In a split second, Kulstad reads the defense and determines whether to relocate to the corner for an open triple or slip to the opposite side of the post for an easy dump-off and lay-in. 

Play 2: The point guard directs a five-out offense, where all players are behind the three-point line. The point guard rubs off a screen set by a wing player and then flips the ball out to Kulstad on the extended elbow. With the defense closing out to run Kulstad off the three-point line, a wing player dives to the bucket. Kulstad gathers her dribble with one hand and lasers it to a cutting wing for an easy bucket.

Passing is an art. Just one millisecond late and it’s a turnover. Too far to the left, it hits the defender’s hands. Too high, it goes out of bounds. Too low, the game turns into a soccer match.

Few players master the art of passing, and even fewer are post players. Despite her stature, Kulstad often flicks passes to cutting players and open shooters without a second’s hesitation. 

Donovan Mitchell, a combo guard for the Utah Jazz, is elite when it comes to the bullet pass. The all-star guard regularly whips one-handed passes around the court to find open teammates for open shots.

But Kulstad isn’t a guard. Her added size on the court gives her vision to see over the defense, allowing her to make pinpoint passes from two feet. 

With her size, shooting ability, IQ and vision, Kulstad plays eerily similar to Denver Nuggets center, Nikola Jokic. But more than anything, Kulstad imitates his passing. 

“Emily was a great fit from the moment we first connected,” SUU head coach Tracy Sanders said in a press release on national signing day. “Emily is tough, physical and loves to win.”

Amoret Maxwell

Play 1: The opponent sprints down the floor for a fast break. Guard Amoret Maxwell and a teammate hustle down the floor to try and stop the ball. The opposing player dives straight to the bucket, but is met by a defender. Maxwell closes in, doubling the opponent in the key. The opponent gathers the ball, quickly pivots and spots a teammate in the corner, open. She brings the ball up to make the pass but before it leaves her fingers, Maxwell has retreated to the corner directly in line for the pass. Maxwell takes the ball, beats all of the defenders back to the other end of the court, and lays it in.

Make no mistake, Maxwell is long. As a guard, she stands at 5’11 and has a wingspan that seems to run for miles. If the ball is in her vicinity, it’s hers.

A true defensive pest, Maxwell knows where and when to rotate to help. Her quick feet allow her to stay in front of her man, and her long frame prohibits any passes from squeezing by.

Quick hands, quick feet, and a long wingspan make for a dream defender on the wings. On the defensive end, Maxwell resembles Jimmy Butler, a long guard who uses his agility and wingspan to disrupt offenses.

Play 2: The point guard dribbles down the left side stopping around the extended elbow. With no look inside because the defense has closed in on the post, she looks across the court. Filling the empty space, Maxwell slides up the opposite extended elbow, leaving her guarding empty space. The point guard skips the pass over to Maxwell who launches it before the defender can fully turn around. Cash.

Maxwell has a quick release. She catches the ball square, and has the ball up and in the air far too quickly for any defender to make a play on it.

A deadeye shooter, Maxwell shot 40% from downtown her junior year in high school. The good news for SUU is shooting is a skill that often transfers to the next level. 

With a quick and high release, Maxwell resembles Milwaukee Bucks guard Kyle Korver, just with a little less shot volume. Maxwell cannot be left open in the corners, as that’s where she gets most of her shots when the ball swings around the perimeter.

“Amoret is another great addition to this 2021 class,” Sanders said. “She’s labeled as one of the best shooters on the west coast and has the ability to really stretch the floor out for us. We can’t wait to get her in a T-Bird uniform.” 

Aishah Anis

SUU also added another Australian player to their squad. Aishah Anis will be heading to Cedar City from Launceston, Tasmania. A 5’7” guard, Anis will provide plenty of scoring for the Lady T-Birds. Anis is set to be the fourth Australian player on the team next season.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much public film available on Anis. From what is accessible, Anis is a quick guard with a killer crossover. SUU will be pleased to add another playmaker and shot creator to their team. 

“We are excited to add another Aussie to the mix,” Sanders said. “Aishah is a dynamic guard that is just fun to watch. You can tell she loves the game. She is going to give us great versatility on the perimeter with her ability to score and create for others.”

Each player remarked that they felt perfectly comfortable with the coaching staff at SUU. 

“The staff is the most amazing staff I have ever met,” Maxwell remarked.

Sanders is heading into her third season as the head coach of the SUU women’s basketball team. Sanders’ squad finished 18-13, the program’s best record since 2014.

Anis, Maxwell, and Kulstad are slated to lace up for the Lady T-Birds in the fall of 2021. 

Story by: Kelton Jacobsen
Photograph by: Mitchell Quartz