The Rutgers women’s basketball program received great news on Tuesday. Star player Arella Guirantes announced she will forego the WNBA Draft, despite being projected as a First Round selection, and instead will return for her senior season. Guirantes issued the following statement through Rutgers on Tuesday night:
“I have my goals written down, and I didn’t write them down for nothing,” Guirantes said. “This morning I read my bible and started reflecting. I was feeling overwhelmed and feeling anxious to get it over with. This verse stuck out to me and reminded me the process is part of the journey. I was going to make a decision to get it over with, but this decision is what I’m supposed to be going through. What I needed to do was be faithful toward my goals. I want to be the Big Ten Player of the Year, a First Team All-American and win a championship with Rutgers Basketball. This is what I’m supposed to go through to be prepared for those moments.”
1 Thessalonians 3:3-5
3 We didn’t want any of you to be shaken by these problems. You know very well that we were meant to go through this. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept on predicting that we were going to face problems exactly like what happened, as you know. 5 That’s why I sent Timothy to find out about your faithfulness when I couldn’t stand it anymore. I was worried that the tempter might have tempted you so that our work would have been a waste of time.
Guirantes was an All-Big Ten First Team selection by both the coaches and media last season, as well as an honorable mention All-America selection by the the Associated Press, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. For the season overall, she averaged 20.6 points, which was best in the Big Ten and ninth in all of Division I. Guirantes developed into a complete player as a redshirt junior and in 18 Big Ten regular season contests, Guirantes finished with the following per game averages: second in scoring at 20.6 points, third in free throw shooting at 84.1%, sixth in steals at 1.9, ninth in blocks, twelfth in three-point shooting at 37.5% and 19th in rebound at 5.7.
The return of Guirantes is a huge boost for a team that went 22-9 overall and finished in fifth place in the Big Ten. The program was also headed to a second consecutive NCAA Tournament before it was cancelled due to the global pandemic COVID-19. In addition to Guirantes, the Scarlet Knights return wing Tekia Mack, who averaged 11.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per contest. She earned All-Big Ten Defensive Team and honorable mention honors as a junior. A third starter, forward Mael Gilles, also returns after averaging 6.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks last season as a junior.
In addition to having three senior starters returning for next season, Rutgers has key returning players in guards Zippy Broughton, a former 5-star recruit, as well as guard Joiya Maddox and forward Tyia Singleton. The roster will also welcome the 8th ranked recruiting class in the country that includes five players, highlighted by 5-star guard Diamond Johnson, the sixth highest rated prospect in the entire 2020 class. You can read more on the heralded class here and I spoke with host Lance Glinn about the newcomers potential impact on next season’s roster here.
“Arella is the perfect leader to bring Rutgers women’s basketball to the next level as we continue our resurgence as a national power,” said head coach C. Vivian Stringer. “We appreciate her dedication to our program and her commitment to excellence. Her work ethic and competitive drive is second to none and we are excited to welcome her back for her senior season.”
Coach Stringer spoke on a recent episode of our On The Banks podcast about the development of Guirantes and her excitement about her potentially returning. It seems clear they have a great relationship and look forward to working together for one more season.
“It’s one of the reasons I came to Rutgers,” Guirantes said of her mentor. “To learn from one of the best of all time. We are part of each other’s journey and we are both leaving a legacy at Rutgers.”
With Guirantes back to lead a talented supporting cast, Rutgers women’s basketball has a chance to have its best season in many years next winter. They’ll likely be included in the preseason national rankings and expectations will be high for this team. For Stringer and Guirantes, it seems likely wouldn’t want it any other way.