Four new Panthers ready to take the stage

This past season, the women’s basketball team recorded a 20-win season and reached the WNIT for the second consecutive year. Following another successful season, Head Coach Cindy Russo added four new players to her squad for the upcoming 2013-2014 season.

Russo, who has mastered international recruiting during her tenure, brought in two players from overseas in Janka Hegedus from Budapest, Hungary and Nikolina Todorovic who hails from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Russo also brought in two players from the Sunshine State in Karrah Johnson and Kiandre’a Pound.

Russo likes the mindset that these players bring into FIU as they feel they can contribute right away in their first season.

“These are four freshmen coming here and expecting to play and have that confidence,” Russo said. “That’s what I like about this group, because some kids when they are freshmen they are willing to sit back and take a look type of thing and are not sure they are ready.”

Russo, who rarely plays freshmen, isn’t sure how much time they will get.

“I will look at that, but until we get on the floor, you just never know, but I am really optimistic that they can be contenders,” Russo said.

At six feet tall and hailing from Sebastian River High School in Vero Beach, Fla., Pound led her team to four district titles, and also won the state championship for class 7A in 2012. The incoming freshman averaged a double-double with 18.7 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. She also adds defense to her game as she averaged 2.5 steals and 1.7 blocks per game.

Johnson, a graduate from Lake Highland Prep School in Orlando, Fla., is coming off a senior season where she averaged a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds per game. Johnson was awarded Offensive Player of the Year honors in her sophomore season, and was an FABC all-start in her senior year. Johnson left Lake Highland Prep School as a 1,000 point scorer.

Todorovic played on the Bosnian National team and was a key contributor to seven straight titles in different categories. At 5 feet 6 inches tall, Todorovic averaged 25 points, 6 assists, 5 steals, and 4 rebounds per game for Gymnasium Banja Luka where she was team MVP for each of her four seasons.

Hegedus played at Eotvos Jozsef High School in her home country where she averaged 16.0 points per game. She also led her U16 Division B squad to a European Championship in 2010. The Hungary native stands at 6-foot-1.

Along with superstar Jerica Coley, who is entering her senior season, Russo returns 10 other players as the Panthers hope to reach the NCAA Tournament this coming season.

With the new recruits, the biggest issue according to Russo is depth.

“We have a strong selection of players, we are deep, we are strong and we will try to use as many [players] as we can,” Russo said. The biggest thing though is being mentally tough.”

The expectations Russo has for the new players are have nothing to do with the numbers they put up but more on the mental side.

“I am more of a mental coach and I believe that if a player is coachable, listens, and is disciplined you can win a lot of games,” Russo said. “That’s what I will be looking for in them and also their work ethic and responding to what he ask of them.”

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