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Four recruits sign commitment to play for Penguins

YOUNGSTOWN — Not much has been normal in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic, but Wednesday was one of those days for the Youngstown State University women’s basketball program.

Coach John Barnes planted future plans for the 2021-22 season by signing four high school seniors: Athena Hocevar (West Geauga) and forwards Kiersten McNulty (Oshkosh, Wis.), Tenleigh Phelps (Fairland, Ind.) and Lamyia Woodson (Fort Wayne, Ind.).

Hocevar was a third-team All-Ohio player in Division II as a junior, averaging 15.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.8 steals and assists as a junior for the Wolverines. She verbally committed to YSU in May and had offers from Detroit Mercy, Oakland, Austin Peay and High Point.

Hocevar gives the Penguins, who were 13-17 last season, much needed size on the perimeter. All four recruits are 5-foot-11 or taller.

Barnes said Hocevar is a long, athletic and a good defender. She shoots the 3-point shot and runs the floor — all qualities the YSU coach expects from his players.

Currently, senior Chelsea Olson (5-10) is the team’s tallest guard.

“Our guards have been on the smaller side for the most part, besides Chelsea,” Barnes said. “To have a guard of that size is good for the program.”

Hocevar is one of two signees from West Geauga coming to Youngstown.

On Wednesday, the men’s program signed Josh Irwin, a 6-7 forward, who is playing his senior year at International Sports Academy in Willoughby.

Barnes said West Geauga is a well-run high school program.

“It helps at our level because they’ve been taught and coached in a college-like atmosphere,” he said. “They come in ahead of the curve instead of coming in from a program that is not established and isn’t super-involved.”

Phelps, 5-11, averaged 13.2 points 6.4 rebounds, along with 2.5 assists and 1.4 steals as a junior at Triton Central High School in Fairland, Ind. The Indiana Basketball Coaches Association small school all-state team selection chose YSU over offers from Southern Illinois-Edwardsvile and Southeast Missouri State.

Woodson, 6-0, averaged 6.5 points and 7.8 rebounds a junior. The Fort Wayne (Ind.) South Side Archers are predicted as the third-best team in Northeast Indiana by outsidethehuddle.net. Woodson, a thrower on the Archers’ track and field team, committed to YSU before her junior season.

“Tenleigh and Lamyia are really strong and bring a lot of toughness, which is always a good thing and helps,” Barnes said.

McNulty is a 6-2 forward at Oshkosh West (Wis.) High School. She averaged 11.3 points and 6.8 rebounds during her junior season. McNulty selected YSU over Indiana State.

“She fills a cruical role for us in post play,” Barnes said. “We’ll be losing Emma (VanZanten) and Mary (Dunn), potentially. I don’t know how to approach that. They could be back next year. In our recruiting, we’re recruiting that they’ll be gone.

“She’s moblie, really can defend, has nice touch around the basket.”

Dunn, VanZanten, Olson, McKenah Peters and Amara Chikwe are the team’s current seniors.

The NCAA gave an extra year of eligibity to all winter sports athletes for next season. Current seniors on all rosters are permitted to return for the 2021-22 season if they chose to do so after the current season is done.

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