Can Isnelle Natabou push women’s basketball over the top?

Senior center Isnelle Natabou rising over her defender and attempting a layup. Photo courtesy of Sacramento State Athletics.

Brandon Gonzalez | Contributing Writer

In the midst of their 2024 offseason, the FIU women’s basketball team added size to their frontcourt and signed senior center Isnelle Natabou, as announced by the team’s X account on Monday, June 10, 2024.

Standing at 6-5, Natabou spent her 2023-2024 season as a member of the Iowa State Cyclones. Over 33 games played, she averaged 4.5 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in 11.9 minutes per night.

Primarily serving as a backup for sophomore center Audi Crooks, her statistics from last year all marked career lows and don’t completely reflect her impact on the court. 

Prior to joining the Cyclones, Natabou played for the Sacramento State Hornets from 2021-2023. During her time with the team, she started all 63 of her available games and averaged 15.3 PPG.

Beyond her availability and scoring ability, Natabou established herself as one of the premier rebounders in the Big Sky Conference. Over her two year career with the Hornets, she averaged 10.1 RPG and pulled down a career-high 10.9 RPG during her freshman season.

Outside of her statistics, she also played an instrumental role in leading Sacramento State to their first NCAA Tournament berth in program history. Despite the success the team had found in 2023, their season reached its’ conclusion against the UCLA Bruins. 

Tall with long arms to match, there aren’t many who can compare to Natabou’s sheer stature. 

Frequently, she’d take full advantage of the size disparity between her and other centers. Through bullying smaller defenders in the post, she used her positioning around the basket to score in whichever fashion she pleased. 

If an opposing player managed to hold their own physically, Natabou would introduce them to her array of post moves, be it an up and under or drop step. Despite her 6-5 frame, her speed and agility allowed her to quickly get around defenders. 

With her resume and skill set, she caught the eye of Iowa State and joined the team for her junior season. However, her role on the team wasn’t as clearly defined as in years past and she struggled to adjust to Power 5 play. 

Natabou’s struggles with the Cyclones may be the result of her lack of playing time. Over her time with the Hornets, she averaged 33.3 MPG, which nearly tripled her average from 2023-2024.

The level of competition may have been different but basketball is the same game on any court. With Natabou now having the chance to start for the Panthers immediately, she has all the opportunities she’ll need to prove last year was an exception.

With the Panthers losing senior forward Ajae Yokum to the transfer portal and having no center on the roster, Natabou can expect to play a large role in the 2024-2025 season.

Already a team with playoff experience, adding a veteran presence could be what the Panthers need in order to ascend their play even further than just a playoff appearance.

Follow Brandon Gonzalez on X: @BGonzalezLons

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