Missouri transfer joins Western

Alex Rieger and Western Illinois Media Services contributed to this report.

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While she won’t be able to play until the 2013-14 season, the Western Illinois women’s basketball team improved its backcourt by adding Missouri native Tori Niemen to the roster.

Head coach JD Gravina announced Friday that Niemann will transfer from the University of Missouri and will have two years of eligibility remaining after sitting out the upcoming season to meet NCAA transfer requirements.

A 5-foot-11 guard, Niemann played two seasons for the Tigers, appearing in 34 games. She was a four-year starter at Canton R-V high school for coach (and current Leatherneck assistant coach) Seth Minter. A three time All-State selection, Niemann averaged 19.2 points and 9.1 rebounds during her prep career while compiling a 98-17 record.

“I have known Tori and her family for a long time, and getting the chance to coach her is an amazing opportunity,” said Leathernecks head coach JD Gravina. “Her size and athleticism will make her one of the top guards in our league. She can shoot, attack the basket, and play strong in the paint. Her jumping ability will allow her to really help us on the boards.”

Niemann was the KHQA Player of the Year for the 2008-2009 season. In 2010, she was a McDonalds All-American nominee and Honda/Hyundai’s Jason Deters Prep Athlete of the Year. During her senior year, she averaged 23.2 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 3.0 assists per game while shooting 59 percent from the field as Canton finished 25-7.

Niemann was a four-time All-State selection in track and in her final two years of softball earned First Team All-State honors. Not only was she a standout athlete, Niemann excelled in the classroom. She finished with a 4.0 cumulative GPA and was salutatorian of her class.

“Tori is also an exceptional person. Her leadership, competitiveness, character, and academic ability will create a standard that will help take our program to the next level on and off the court,” Gravina said.

Niemann is the sixth recruit committing to Western for next year joining high school signees Sophie Reichelt and Paige Harmon — both forwards — and guards Michelle Maher, Liz Skotowski and Charnelle Reed.

The Leathernecks return nine players for next year but lose their top two scorers from this past season. They will look to build on last year’s unanticipated success.

Picked to finish tenth in the 2011-12 preseason Summit League poll, Gravina and his first-year Western squad finished 7-11 in the league tying for sixth place. The Leathernecks advanced to the semifinals of the Summit League Tournament following a first round win over Oral Roberts.

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