Wisconsin's seniors take one final shot at March Madness run

 Cayla McMorris and the rest of her senior class look to take advantage of their final shot at a postseason run Wednesday against Northwestern.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

Two weeks ago at Wisconsin’s last home game of the season against Rutgers, UW recognized its senior players, guard Cayla McMorris, forward Kendall Shaw as well as Malayna Johnson, who due to injuries, was unable to compete this season.

McMorris has been a member of the Badgers for four years and has been making an impact ever since she first set foot on the court. And though McMorris’s career now nears the end of the road, her senior year has been anything but ordinary.

Back in her freshman season, she played in all 29 games and averaged almost 17 minutes per game. During her sophomore year, McMorris being a more seasoned player and began to see more time on the court as she started 12 out of the 28 games she played in while averaging a little over six points a game.

As she transitioned into her junior year, McMorris officially became a staple of the women’s basketball program where she was one of only two players to start all 31 of Wisconsin’s games. She also led the team on the offensive end with an average of 12.3 points a game. It was also in her junior year that McMorris set her career-high of 31 points.

Now, McMorris has emerged as the key for the Badgers on and off the court. Not only did she significantly impact production on the offensive end, but she also made a difference on the defensive end. And in early February against Ohio State, McMorris became the 25th woman in Wisconsin women’s basketball history to reach 1000 career points, a feat which is not easily accomplished.

“Cayla has really set the stone work for our team about how hard you have to work every day on the court, showing us how hard we need to push ourselves,” said transfer player Kelly Karlis. “Obviously, she just scored a thousand points so that is something to look at strive for, for everyone on our team.”

There is no doubt that McMorris has impacted both the team and UW, but she is not the only one. Consequently, the team must also say goodbye to the “mom” of the team, Kendall Shaw.

Shaw, a two-year graduate transfer, has been the face of the paint on offense and defense during her time as a Badger. Shaw began her basketball career at the University of Vanderbilt in 2012 where she averaged almost four points a game for them, but was forced to miss her entire sophomore season due to a serious knee injury.

She came back ablazing for her junior year, yet was hit with misfortune again after she suffered an ankle injury which left her watching from the sideline for all but eight games.

Finally, in the 2015-’16 season, Shaw was back in action and played 25 games, starting in one of them, a great accomplishment considering how much time she lost due to unexpected injuries. Soon after though, Shaw decided that her time with basketball was not quite over as she made the decision to come to UW as a graduate transfer.

She’s now played two seasons with the Badgers. In her first year, she played in 29 games and started 13 while also tying a career-high of 12 points. In her last season with UW, Shaw secured a season best of 10 points and six rebounds.

“Kendall has done a great job as well with never getting down on herself, always being positive on the court,” Karlis said.

Over her two years with UW, Shaw has also taken on the role as the “mom” or the “mother hen” of the team, not only because of her being the oldest on the team, but also because of her warm-hearted nature.

“I think being called the mom of the team is something I take as a compliment,” Shaw said. “Because it shows that I am caring and that I care for every single one of them.”

Saying goodbye to McMorris, Shaw and Johnson will be a challenge, yet there are a handful of returning players who are eager to fill those now empty spots as they aim for a successful season during their own senior year. Next season Wisconsin will have four seniors, Lexy Richardson, Roichelle Marble, Karlis and Howard.

In the past few games, Howard especially has stepped up and started contributing a significant amount of points for the team. She will be a key player expected to step up and guide the team next season, both on and off the court.

“Definitely, that will be some big shoes to fill next year,” Howard said. “And being a senior I have to be able to step up and take on that role.”

However, Howard is not the only player ready to showcase her skills. Karlis, who sat the bench as a transfer this season, is also eager to prove her abilities next season as she begins to map out what her senior year goals are.

“[I’d like] to keep building on what we have built this year,” Karlis said. “We are heading in a great direction. Overall, just setting great leaders for the class coming in next year.”

The Badgers will play their first tournament conference game early Wednesday afternoon against Northwestern.

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