Meet the Newcomers: Celina VanHyfte

    Celina VanHyfte gives the Salukis some much-needed frontcourt depth for the 2014-15 season.

    Celina VanHyfte gives the Salukis some much-needed frontcourt depth for the 2014-15 season.
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    June 30, 2014

    By John Lock

    The SIU women's basketball program is welcoming in four newcomers to the 2014-15 squad, Kylie Giebelhausen, Micah Norris, Blair Stephenson and Celina VanHyfte. The foursome is in Carbondale for four weeks getting ready for the upcoming season and getting acclimated to Southern Illinois. We're going to profile one of the newcomers in each of the upcoming four weeks. In the third installment, we look at forward/center Celina VanHyfte.

    Previous profiles: Blair Stephenson | Kylie Giebelhausen

    CARBONDALE, Ill - By the numbers, college will be quite the transition for SIU freshman forward/center Celina VanHyfte. Number of buildings on the SIUC campus: 246; number of buildings at VanHyfte's Annawan school district, grades K-12: one. Number of students at Southern Illinois: more than 17,000. Number of citizens in the entire town of Annawan: less than 1,000.

    But the transition isn't all about numbers. Both of VanHyfte's parents successfully transitioned from small-school Illinois high school sports into Division I athletics. Her dad remains the only male DI athlete ever from Annawan, and her mom played basketball at Bradley with SIU associate head coach Andrea Gorski. Their advice for daughter Celina?



    "Mom says I'm going to have to learn to enjoy running," Celina said. "She also said I can do anything if I put my mind to it."

    If the first obstacle of coming to a new team in college is fitting in, VanHyfte is already well past that hurdle after just three weeks in Carbondale. She chose Saluki basketball because of the people--"It really is just like a family," she says--and the always-smiling VanHyfte fit right in. She also gives SIU some much-needed depth in the front court behind All-MVC center Dyana Pierre and last year's second-leading scorer, Azia Washington.

    "Celina has that infectious positive outlook on everything," head coach Cindy Stein said. "She hates to fail and is such a competitor. Her strength will be her strength. She has a natural power to her, and she grabs boards and can push people around inside. Once she catches on to the overall physicality of the game at this level, she will thrive."

    VanHyfte thrived at the high school level. She was a four-time All-State selection and led Annawan to its first-ever team sport title when she led the girls' basketball team on a dominating run through the state tournament. She grabbed more than 1,100 career rebounds and scored more than 2,400 career points, just 100 shy of the west central Illinois scoring record held by her mother and coach, Valerie.

    She also was a softball standout; in fact, SIU's primary opponent to landing VanHyfte's basketball talents was Illinois State trying to sign her as a softball player.

    "I wouldn't be as happy playing softball as I will be playing basketball," VanHyfte said. "That's really what it came down to."

    She is the lone post player in SIU's four-member incoming class and figures to battle for immediate playing time on a thin front line that found itself in trouble if Pierre or Washington got into foul trouble. But VanHyfte isn't focused on big minutes right away; she's focused on one minute.

    "I'll do anything to help the team," VanHyfte said. "If that means going for one minute and playing great defense for that one minute, I'll do it."

    Her goals grow from there; she has her sights set on an MVC title in her time at Carbondale, something she can already see her class accomplishing.

    "Kylie (Giebelhausen) can shoot from literally anywhere. Micah (Norris) is super smart about basketball. And Blair (Stephenson) is a great player and a great leader; she's taken us all under her wing," VanHyfte said.

    But first, she's still transitioning into the faster and more physical Missouri Valley Conference level of play, perhaps even taking mom's advice and learning to enjoy running.

    VanHyfte at a glance
     Favorite Color Orange and Black (for Halloween)
     Favorite Basketball Memory Winning State Title
     Favorite Food Grilled Swordfish
     Favorite Athlete Liz Watkins
     Favorite Movie Anchorman 2