Lady Pirates Say Goodbye To Three Seniors
Feb. 25, 2006
By Ryan Downey
Three East Carolina women's basketball seniors don't know how they will feel when they take the court Sunday, but if past senior days are any indication, there will be a lot emotion at Minges Coliseum. The pre-game festivities as well as the final buzzer will mark the last time LaToya Horton, Catherine Coley and Ebonee Downey will take the court in front of the home crowd.
The group will leave the program in better shape than they found it and will be missed by their teammates, coaches and fans.
"I think they are all great people," said head coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener. "Each of them brings a unique personality to the team and has helped lay a solid foundation for the future of ECU basketball."
The chance to play college athletics is something that none of these seniors has taken lightly. The trio learned about themselves and others through a variety of experiences on and off the court and used them to enrich the lives of their teammates and their coaches.
Horton, Balwin-Tener's first four-year senior, has grown from an athlete into solid player and top contributor over the years. She says the time has flown by.
"It's been fun," said Horton. "I have met a lot of people and have been able to enjoy what I have been doing. Working with coach Baldwin-Tener has been amazing. One of the best experiences in my life has been coming here and playing for her."
The Hinesville, Ga. native said that she has changed a lot since she came to the school as a freshman. When she arrived on campus she was a self described "crazy kid", who was in familiar territory. Many family members live near by and the chance to visit the college for graduations of family members made the transition to ECU feel more like coming back than starting a new life.
"When I first got here I used to die my hair any color I wanted and just do anything to my hair. But now I can't do that, it's time to be professional and get ready for the real world," Horton added.
The communication major wants to pursue a graduate degree in sports management after graduating. Once she wraps that up she would be interested in coaching, working with a team in promotions or anything athletics related.
Even though it has been on the schedule for all to see since before the season began, Catherine Coley has yet to get her head around the idea of her last game at ECU.
"It doesn't really feel real yet," said Coley. "It will probably start setting in when we get to the game."
Coley, who hails from Australia, was born in Colorado but moved to Australia when she was two. Since then she has been back and fourth to visit family from time to time (her father lives in the United States), as well as spending her junior year as a foreign exchange student at Person High School in Person County N.C.
Her experience at the school helped her grow a lot as a person and gave her life a direction. The idea that basketball, which she started playing when she was 14, could be a way to pay for her to get a college education was an opportunity that she was not familiar with growing up. In Australia students are only given academic scholarships, and they are not easy to come by.
After her time as an exchange student expired, she returned to Australia for her senior year. Once back home she helped lead her team to a state championship and on through to a National Tournament appearance. Realizing her passion for the sport, she began looking into college basketball for scholarship opportunities in America, finally settling on New Mexico Jr. College. After two successful years in the JuCo ranks she transferred to ECU.
"I definitely wanted to go to school here in America," said Coley. "I liked the Australian system but I just wanted to experience something different."
The former Australian Rules football player said the chance for a free education paired with the chance to give something back to college made it all worth while.
Coley, who would like to go into event planning and business management, after graduation has gotten more than a chance to earn a degree while playing with the Pirates.
"I think I have really gotten stronger as a person. I am in the best shape I have ever been in and I am tougher mentally. I can pretty much face anything."
Ebonee Downey will be leaving the court with plans to make a difference off of it. While many people come to college hoping to get a fancy degree that will help them make a ton of money, the humble senior has discovered a different focus.
Over her time at ECU, Downey has had a chance to learn the joy of working for and with people and making a difference in their lives. She has volunteered with rest homes, worked with free fairs for kids and even planned a basketball event for disabled children. After she has her degree in hand, the RCLS major would like to go into coaching and or work with the Boys and Girls club. The third oldest out of seven kids identifies with children and wants a chance to work with them.
"They are looking for people to help them out," said Downey. "Some of them are really troubled. I like to help out kids when I can."
While she doesn't plan to work for free for the rest of her life, she is someone who puts others before herself and feels rewarded for it.
"Just knowing that you have helped somebody, when you see a smile on their face it puts a smile on yours," she added.