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Memphis underclassmen finding a way to produce for surging Tigers

The Memphis Tigers women’s basketball team is into the 2023 portion of their season and a large reason for their success has been the emergence of two young players – sophomore forward Hannah Riddick and freshman guard Tanquel Welch. 

With the team on a three-game winning streak and sitting on an 8-5 record, the contributions from Welch and Riddick propelled the Tigers during a rough patch of games in early December.

In that time span, they fell to nationally-ranked Indiana and South Carolina. Despite the setbacks, both players felt those games brought out the best in Memphis. 

“Despite not getting the results that we may have wanted, I think that we showed we can play with any team we go against. We go into every contest thinking that we can win, and there’s no exception,” Reddick said.

Riddick’s rise into the starting lineup this season stemmed from last year’s play as the 2021-2022 season waned.

Her hustle and grit as a freshman earned her playing time in a stacked front court that included former Tigers Alana Davis and Tyler Frierson. With both individuals moving on via graduation, it was only natural that Riddick slide into the starting role Still, she knew head coach Katrina Merriweather wouldn’t give her anything.

That’s what made Riddick push even harder. 

“I knew that my offensive game had to improve this offseason and I put my all into making sure I focused on it,” she said. 

So far, her 2022-23 campaign has reaped the results of her off-season work. Riddick is shooting 41 percent from the field while averaging six rebounds per game.

Merriweather envisioned Reddick’s emergence season, saying it was more about Riddick regaining her form after a mid-season injury. 

“Hannah’s progression would’ve gotten her more playing time last season, but she needed to get healthy. Now she’s where she needs to be in terms of her development, and I’m excited,” Merriweather said.

Tanquel Welch has been soaking up knowledge from the Memphis coaches, knowing they want her to thrive on the court. (Photo: U of M Athletics)

Welch arrived at Memphis from North Central High School in Indiana, where she achieved success from a team and individual standpoint. 

With the opportunity to develop behind one of the deepest guard lineups in the American Athletic Conference, Welch has retained the wisdom from veterans Jamirah Shutes, Madison Griggs, and Emani Jefferson. 

“Maddie was the player I toured with when I visited the school, and she’s been key in helping me grow. Also, Emani has been the best guard I’ve ever played against, and I have faced a lot of top-level competition,” Welch said.

The level of athletes Welch faces everyday in practice has benefitted her so far this season. She’s shooting 50 percent from the field, including 47 percent from the three-point line, while possessing a 2 to 1 assist to turnover ratio.

Likely the point guard of the future, Welch soaks up knowledge from the Memphis coaches, knowing they want her to thrive on the court. 

However, both Riddick and Welch marvel at the life lessons Merriweather has bestowed upon the team, which are more valuable than the on-court decisions.

“She’s taught us a lot about life, whether it comes to managing money, handling situations off the court, and just life skills as a whole. She’s just a great woman to play for,” Riddick said.

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