USU women’s basketball newcomer breakdown: SLCC transfer Mia Tarver | Sports

Wes Brooks has big plans for a turnaround of the Utah State women’s basketball program. Much of that involves having a fast-paced offense while also being a team that guards all 94 feet of the basketball court. It takes a certain kind of player to pull off such a high-intensity style.

The very first of Brooks’ transfer commits is just such a player. Mia Tarver, a 5-foot-7 guard out of Salt Lake Community College, isn’t exactly a queen of the stat sheet, with per-game averages of 9.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists alongside slightly roughly average shooting percentages (39.9 percent overall and 30.7 from three). And yet, she possesses the qualities necessary to be an integral part of Utah State’s reimagined style.

At the top of Tarver’s list of positive impact attributes stands her defensive capabilities. SLCC ranked 26th in defensive efficiency among NJCAA D1 teams and Tarver played a key part in that stellar team defense. She put in work as a point-of-attack defender, picking up the opponent’s top ball handler and sometimes top scorer, and showed overall great defense.

Over and over again there were great examples of her harassing opposing ball handlers and stonewalling driving guards. Here’s one of the top examples of her playing shutdown defense.. Tarver (No. 23 in blue) sticks to her mark through a couple crossovers and a screen, forcing the player into a baseline pass. As if that wasn’t enough, Tarver wheels up to the top of the key to close out what would have been a wide-open three and it ends up as a rushed mid-range shot.

Tarver’s defense wasn’t a perfect example of vigilance as there were a decent number of clips where she didn’t diagnose plays off-ball and got caught sleeping on some backdoor cuts or give-and-go’s from opponents.

Those are worrying, but were largely from one game. In others, and even elsewhere in that same contest, Tarver was quick to prevent a sneaky pass. Overall, what we’re looking at with Tarver is the potential to be the best defender on the team, provided a few sloppy plays are cleaned up. She is quick enough to guard pretty much anyone and moves her feet and body well to ensure she doesn’t get beat. Of the two or so cases Tarver did let her man get past her, one involved a teammate being in the way of the ideal guarding path and on the other Tarver still ended up stopping the play dead by getting a steal.

Defensive intensity isn’t the only aspect in which Tarver fits well with Brooks. She puts her quickness and hustle to good use in transition, sometimes pushing the ball by herself and becoming a one-woman fast break. There were a few lowlights in her film when she did the lone fast break approach, plays where she would get a rebound or steal, go the distance to the rim but not finish the job by making the shot (this happened more than once or twice). In general, though, when Tarver pushed the tempo, either with or without the ball, good things happened. She hit those fastbreak layups more often than not and she also filled her lane to create open 3-pointers and even took on the role of playmaker in these fastbreak plays.

A couple of those transition clips showcased something Tarver seems to be a bit underrated at: her passing. She clearly played a shooting guard, even a small forward-esque role at SLCC in the sense that others were responsible for primary ball-handling duties. And yet her film has a solid helping of quality passing and ball-handling.

There’s nothing complex about any of these passes, but they showcase A) a heads-up awareness and tendency against getting tunnel vision and B) just pure, clean, crisp, accurate passing that reaches its mark in a timely fashion. Tarver is creating offense with her aggression of the catch and ability to pass to teammates who become open when she makes the right moves.

Tarver’s own scoring was largely limited to 3-pointers, which accounted for roughly half of her overall field goal attempts. Most of those other attempts mainly came from attacking closeouts where most of the time Tarver would simply take it all the way to the basket. She’s not an elite rim finisher, an expected outcome given she’s 5-foot-7, but she made nearly 49 percent of her shots inside the arc so it’s a viable enough option for her to be doing somewhat regularly.

The moniker of “three-and-D” player, one who plays high-level defense while mostly just contributing 3-point shooting on offense, is somewhat fitting, but not quite descriptive enough for Tarver. Her higher level of passing shown just above is part of that. Though despite being potentially more than just a three-and-D guard, it’s hard to see her becoming a star on the team. At least not in the traditional sense. There’s some chance if Tarver gets the chance to improve and showcase a bit more of her ball-handling and even scoring off the dribble, then perhaps an all-conference scorer is hidden underneath. More likely is that Tarver could very well be an A+ level role player, the kind of player that starts most games but isn’t the one making headlines because they’re not the ones filling the stat sheet.

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