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MTSU Women’s Basketball Transfer Class Breakdown

Noah Maddox
Posted 6/17/24

The MTSU Lady Raiders brought in three transfers this offseason, including one familiar face.

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MTSU Women’s Basketball Transfer Class Breakdown

Coming off of one of the best seasons in program history, the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders are looking to reload heading into legendary head coach Rick Insell’s 20th year at the helm.
In this week’s transfer portal class deep dive, the Lady Raiders are under examination after adding three players, keeping one from entering the portal, and losing three others after a 30-5 (16-0) season that saw Insell’s squad make the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. One of the signees, Courtney Blakely, is a former Lady Raider herself, and she decided to come back after just one year out west at Arizona. The other two transfers are Emily Monson and Elina Arike. The reigning CUSA DPOY,  Anastasiia Boldyreva, also decided to come back and not enter the portal despite other schools allegedly offering her six figures to leave Murfreesboro. 
In terms of outgoing transfers, there are currently three Lady Raiders who have entered the portal, but only one has committed to another school at the time of this print. Zahira Arizmendi Rubio, Sifa Ineza, and Iullia Grabovskaia are all in the transfer portal, and Rubio has committed to Florida Atlantic after playing two games as a freshman for MTSU last season. 
The 5-foot 8-inch Rubio scored three points and tallied one assist in her college debut against Florida A&M while playing 14 minutes in a 93-48 win on November 9th. Rubio, a freshman from Spain, then played three minutes and scored two points in a 83-42 win over Northern Kentucky on December 20th in her final appearance of the season. 
Sifa Ineza, a 5-foot 11-inch guard who transferred in from FIU, has entered the portal but is still uncommitted at this time. Ineza saw her minutes drastically decrease in her sophomore year, going from playing a touch over 17 minutes per game her freshman year at FIU to playing 8.6 minutes per game this past season. One of the highlights of her one year in a Lady Raiders’ uniform was her buzzer-beating three-pointer off of a steal to end the first half of MTSU’s 73-62 win over the Tennessee Lady Vols in Huntsville, AL, last November. 
Ineza had a productive freshman season off the bench for the Panthers in 2022-23, averaging 8.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.1 steals in about 17 minutes per game while shooting 32.8% 3PT. She scored a career-high 21 points twice, including in her collegiate debut against NC Central. However, this past season at MTSU her averages dropped to 1.9 points, 1.1 rebounds, and 28.6% 3PT. Unfortunately for Ineza, she never could quite find the same stroke last season in a new home with the emergence of Ta’Mia Scott.
The third and final Lady Raider in the transfer portal is Iullia Grabovskaia, a 6-foot 5-inch center from Rostov-on-Don, Russia, and she is currently uncommitted in the portal. Grabovskaia has played one year at MTSU, appearing in 34 games off the bench for the Lady Raiders. She played just under 10 minutes per game, averaging 3.3 points and 3.4 rebounds on 59.5% FG. 
Two of her biggest games of the season were against UTEP with one coming in the CUSA Tournament. In the regular season matchup on January 18, Grabovskaia played 26 minutes, scoring 11 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in a 81-70 home win over the Lady Miners, filling in nicely for Boldreyva who played only 13 minutes due to foul trouble. Grabovskaia came up big once again against UTEP in the CUSA Tournament Semifinal, this time in the first half. Boldryeva once again was saddled to the bench with foul trouble, so Grabovskaia helped stabilize the Lady Raiders inside presence with 14 points and five rebounds over 22 minutes of an eventual 78-50 win despite MTSU only leading by five points at halftime.
Courtney Blakely
Perhaps the biggest addition from the transfer portal that Associate Head Coach Matt Insell delivered was bringing back Courtney Blakely to Murfreesboro for her senior season.
Courtney Blakely (1) averaged 7.1 PPG and 2.6 APG in 2022-23 for the Lady Raiders before transferring to Arizona.
Courtney Blakely (1) averaged 7.1 PPG and 2.6 APG in 2022-23 for the Lady Raiders before transferring to Arizona.
The 5-foot 8-inch guard played her first two seasons for the Blue Raiders and saw nice improvement from her freshman to sophomore year. She was a key defensively to MTSU’s home blowout win over Louisville and Hailey Van Lith in December 2022. She was the primary defender on Van Lith, and the Louisville star was held to just 12 points on 4-18 FG shooting. With the graduation of CUSA POTY, Savannah Wheeler, Blakely will seemingly slot right into the point guard spot after splitting those duties with Wheeler two years ago. 
Last season at Arizona, Blakely appeared in 30 games off the bench, averaging 4.8 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game on 34.3% 3PT in just over 17 minutes per game. Comparatively, she shot 47.6% 3PT in her sophomore year at MTSU on 4.4 attempts per game while playing almost 25 minutes per game. Her addition as a senior for 2024-25 looks like it will pay massive dividends to Rick Insell and his staff, and potentially help lessen the blow of losing such a talented senior class. 
Elina Arike
One year ago, Elina Arike was coming off a fantastic season at UTEP that saw her win the CUSA DPOY award. After she entered the transfer portal, MTSU recruited her to Murfreesboro, but in the end she decided to stay in the state of Texas and transfer to Texas Tech.
Elina Arike (13) won the CUSA DPOY award in 2022-23 at UTEP before transferring to Texas Tech.
Elina Arike (13) won the CUSA DPOY award in 2022-23 at UTEP before transferring to Texas Tech.
Now, after entering the portal once more, the 6-foot 2-inch forward is going to MTSU after one year in Lubbock. 
Arike, a senior, averaged 3.7 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game while playing 18.8 minutes across 26 games, including five starts after averaging 11.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 27 minutes per game in 2022-23 at UTEP. 
“We are excited to welcome Elina to the Blue Raider family,” Insell told MT Athletics. “We are very familiar with her. She is the type of player that we look for: a team player that has a high basketball IQ and will thrive both on and off the court in Murfreesboro. Elina is an elite-level player and is proven in this conference. We expect her to make an immediate impact as a former all-conference player.”
Arike earned second-team All Conference and All-Defensive honors in the 2022-23 season.
Emily Monson
Monson is a 6-foot 1-inch guard that played her high school basketball at Blackman before signing with Purdue before last year. After playing in just 20 games last season – averaging 3.6 minutes per game – Monson decided to enter the portal and come back home to Murfreesboro. This time, however, it will be underneath the tutelage of community mainstay, Rick Insell, and the Middle Tennessee Lady Raiders. 
Emily Monson (21) played limited minutes at Purdue her freshman season, but appeared in 20 games as a freshman.
Emily Monson (21) played limited minutes at Purdue her freshman season, but appeared in 20 games as a freshman.
Purdue finished 15-19 last season, and with a 5-13 record in the Big Ten, the Boilermakers were third from the bottom in the conference standings. Of course, MTSU is usually at or near the top of the CUSA standings every year nowadays, so Monson will not only be stepping into a better situation for her, but for her team as well.
“We are excited to welcome Emily back to Murfreesboro and to the Blue Raider family,” Rick Insell told MT Athletics after she committed. “I have followed her for years. She is a versatile player that can do a lot of different things, and she can play multiple positions. We are excited for her future and are glad to have her and her family become part of our program.”
Monson scored over 1,000 career points at Blackman, and guided her team to a state championship in 2021. There are never any guarantees of playing time, but Monson will have a chance to compete and get better while learning from expereinced uperclassmen in a winning culture.
Middle Tennessee State University Lady Raiders, Rick Insell, Courtney Blakely, Elina Arike, Emily Monson