How do you improve on a top-10 recruiting class?
You bring in a junior college double-double machine.
The Nebraska women’s basketball team shored up its front line Tuesday, announcing the signing of Anya “Hanna” Kalenta, a 6-foot-3 sophomore from Belarus. Kalenta averaged 20.8 points and 10.7 rebounds per game this season for Vincennes University in Indiana. The third-team all-American scored in double figures in all but one of the Trailblazers' 30 games and turned in 19 double-doubles.
“She's a stretch '4' who runs the floor extremely well,” said her coach, Harry Meeks. “She’s a good shooter and a good offensive rebounder. She’s very efficient and has really good instincts. She’s a very intelligent kid.”
Kalenta shot 51 percent from the field, 41 percent from the three-point line and blocked 62 shots. She is the first junior college recruit for the Huskers since Tay Hester, who came to Lincoln from Mount San Antonio College and graduated in 2009.
"I'm excited that we were able to add Hanna to our roster," Nebraska coach Connie Yori said. "I really like her. Not just as a player, but as a person. She can definitely help us at forward with her ability to score and rebound, and she will give us some depth at a position where we needed it. I also really love her personality. She has a great sense of humor, and I think she will fit in well with our current players."
Meeks said Kalenta also visited Indiana, Utah State and East Tennessee State, the latter due to its pharmacy program.
“I’ve always been told that you have to have three things from a basketball standpoint when you’re making a decision on where you want to be as a player,” Kalenta said. “The most important for me was the head coach and the rest of the coaching staff. Then, when I met my (future) teammates, I loved them. Finally, I’m thinking about how much of a chance I’ll have to play there.
“I just got a strong feeling after being (at NU) that it’s the place for me. I’ll be playing with much more experienced players but I’ll play hard and we’ll see what comes out of it.”
Kalenta began her career at Broward College in Florida before transferring to Vincennes. She also competed for the Republic of Belarus at the Under-20 European Championships.
Kalenta’s addition to the roster brings the list of new players to seven for the 2014-15 season, which includes six incoming freshmen. Jordan Hooper, the Huskers lone senior, graduates in May and is currently in the WNBA's Tulsa Shock's training camp. Two other players — Hannah Tvrdy and Sadie Murren — transferred to Colorado State and Wayne State, respectively.
Nebraska associate head coach Sunny Smallwood has returned to her alma mater, Boise State, in a similar role on its women’s basketball staff.
Smallwood spent nine years as an assistant to Connie Yori, including the past six seasons as associate head coach. Smallwood, who graduated from Boise State in 1983, began her coaching career at Boise High School from 1983 to 1990.
“We want to thank Sunny for her commitment to helping our program climb on the national level over the past nine seasons,” Yori said. “As we’ve done with each of our assistant coaching changes during my first 12 years at Nebraska, we’ll try to take advantage of an opportunity to find a great assistant coach who can help our program keep climbing.”