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SIU senior guard Kylie Giebelhausen discusses the upcoming season during the team's media day on Tuesday at SIU Arena.

CARBONDALE — It’s time to move to the head of the class.

The three years Kylie Giebelhausen has had the luxury of playing with strong leaders in Cartaesha Macklin, Dyana Pierre and Rishonda Napier. During that apprenticeship Giebelhausen has slowly found her game … and her voice.

But, the 2017-18 Southern Illinois University women’s basketball team will be Giebelhausen’s. That point was made clear at the team's media day at the SIU Arena Tuesday.

She will be a four-year starter on a team comprised largely of underclassmen. Ten of the 14 players on the active roster are freshmen or sophomores.

The leadership mantle shouldn’t come as shock to Giebelhausen’s system. It’s a role she’s evolved into over a three-year period.

“Coming in here, I knew Cartaesha and Dyana were really good players,” Giebelhausen said. “I got the experience to play with them. Being a freshman, I wasn’t a leader because we had those role players. I don’t want to say I was a sidekick, but they deserved all the attention they did get.

“Same thing my sophomore year, they had a huge impact on how I’ve developed as a player. Just being able to come in and have that core starting group have that great chemistry and almost being able to mentor how I played.”

While her leadership skills may not have been apparent that first year, her basketball ability was. The 6-foot-1 East Peoria native has been a solid contributor as a scorer, rebounder and defender since she first stepped foot on the SIU Arena floor.

Her physical credentials are impeccable.

“I really feel good about Kylie Giebelhausen returning,” said SIU coach Cindy Stein. “She’s our all-everything player. She’s someone that will probably leave here, I don’t think I’m stretching it when I say she’ll probably leave Southern Illinois as one of the best three point shooters and shot blockers in SIU history. We’re looking forward to her senior year and where she can help lead us.”

Lead probably being the key word in that sentence.

Giebelhausen said she began to find her voice on the team midway through her sophomore year. Still, there’s no doubt the Salukis looked to Napier last year when times got tough.

“With Rishonda, she was either going to find the person that could get the bucket and get the job done, or she was going to do it,” Stein said. “So, she had a really good feel of making sure the kids that needed to get the ball got the ball, or if we weren’t hitting she’d take over the game. Her energy with that, her knowledge of that is hard to replace, but also just her leadership of getting the group together, getting the huddles clean. We don’t really have that right now, and that’s something our communication, the direction we need out there on the floor that’s not me, is crucial.”

With her leadership apprenticeship completed, Giebelhausen believes she is ready to step into that role.

“I am,” she said. “I hope I am. I say it now, but only time will tell when adversity comes how I’ll handle a situation. But, you watched Rishonda do it with such poise. You watched Cartaesha do it with such poise, being double-teamed or having the best defender on them. I think it’s impressive how they handled it.

“I’m hoping I can do the same personally. I’ve been trying to in practice, keep composure, displaying different skills, or getting to the basket, or different moves that can help me if I am double-teamed. I don’t complain about fouls. I don’t complain about much. I know that’s going to happen during a game, and that’s not going to help me. I think just kind of those little things in practice will help me build up to it.”

And, although Giebelhausen is easily the most experienced player, Celina VanHyfte and Olivia Bowling have seen the floor at critical times over the past two seasons. Sophomores Nicole Martin and Lauren Hartman started most of last year while Kristen Nelson and Brittney Patrick saw serious minutes.

“That’s extremely helpful,” Giebelhausen said. “Hopefully now they’ll get the feel of starting the game, being in the game for the down to the wire situation. Having a little bit of background and having the feel for being on the court is great preparation for the year they are going to have this year, with a lot more minutes, the ball and accountability.”

Yet, Gielbelhausen knows her role.

“I don’t think everything falls back on me, but I know a lot of my teammates look up to me,” she said. “So, I’m trying to hold it together for them.”

The women open play with a 2 p.m. Oct. 28 exhibition game against Kentucky Wesleyan. The regular season begins at home Nov. 10 against UT-Martin.

les.winkeler@thesouthern.com

618-351-5088

On Twitter: @LesWinkeler​

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Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

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