Lady Pirates Officially Open Practice
Oct. 18, 2009
GREENVILLE, N.C. - The East Carolina women's basketball team took the court Saturday morning for the first time since a 77-69 loss to regular season champion SMU in the 2009 Conference USA Tournament quarterfinals. Head Coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener welcomed back three starters and nine letterwinners from last year's squad while working with four newcomers for the first time.
"It was a typical first day of practice for us," Baldwin-Tener stated. "We were in a hurry to do things all morning as the newcomers tried to acclimate themselves to the team. There was also a lot of teaching going on today since we have such a young squad. I was, however, pleased with the effort we showed throughout the session today."
The Lady Pirates worked on fundamentals much of the workout before scrimmaging the last half-hour. The squad was split into Purple and Gold teams but many players switched sides throughout the proceedings.
Returning upperclassmen Shuanda Ashford, Kim Gay and Allison Spivey will be looked upon to provide leadership this season, as ECU lost two 1,500-point career scorers and four-year starters Jasmine Young and LaCoya Terry. The former now suits up for the professional club Aguas Buenas Tigresas in Puerto Rico. Gay represents the leading rebounder among the returners, having grabbed 5.2 per contest last season. Spivey also provided a spark from the arc, putting in 35 percent of her three-point attempts while Ashford contributed solid minutes off the bench.
Sophomores Crystal Wilson and Ashley Clarke formed a strong bond on the court last season. They will be relied upon to play more significant roles this campaign to help fill the void left by Terry and Young. Both players feature strong defense and look to cause havoc for opposing offenses as well as drive the ball to the basket.
In the post, 2008-09 C-USA All-Freshman Team honoree Jean Best will hold down the center position, as she led the league in field goal percentage with a mark of .615. Additionally, classmate Chareya Smith can offer increased minutes off the bench. Baldwin-Tener feels that Smith is the most improved player on the returning roster.
Two transfer players, Kelly Smith (West Virginia) and Caitlin Thys (High Point), can provide quality minutes for ECU as Smith played in 33 of the Mountaineers' 35 games in 2007-08, including both NCAA Tournament contests. The Eastern Randolph High School product was the 151st-best recruit in the nation out of high school and holds the all-time scoring record at the institution. Meanwhile, Thys routinely found herself in the top 10 of the Big South in blocks and rebounds as she played for the Panthers. She also recorded three double-doubles as a member of the High Point squad.
"We look forward to having Kelly and Caitlin suit up for us this season," Baldwin-Tener remarked. "They gave us quality time in practices last year and I am excited to have them on the court for us. We recruited Kelly heavily out of high school and were really pleased to find someone of Caitlin's ability. Both will help us out tremendously."
Four freshmen have hit the hardwood of Minges for the first time, as Celeste Stewart (Charlotte, N.C.), Elaine Morgan (Raleigh, N.C.), Shala Hodges (Raleigh, N.C.) and Ariana Jackson (West Palm Beach, Fla.) joined the Lady Pirates and worked out for the first time Saturday. The first three will aid in replenishing the guard corps while the versatile Jackson can play at the guard or forward positions.
East Carolina officially opens the 2009-10 campagin Friday, Nov. 13, against in-state and former Conference USA rival Charlotte at Minges Coliseum at 8 p.m. The contest is part of a doubleheader with the men's team, as it also begins its season at 6 p.m. against Virginia-Wise.