2011-12 East Carolina Women's Basketball Preview
Nov. 8, 2011
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Two feet in. That was the mantra adopted by the East Carolina women's basketball team at the beginning of its preseason workout schedule a few weeks ago. Head Coach Heather Macy, her staff and players are banking on that vision to take them far during the 2011-12 campaign.
With just months to acclimate herself to a new home, Macy guided the 2010-11 squad to the program's third-straight winning season. Along the way, the Pirates knocked off eventual Conference USA champion UCF as well as WNIT qualifier Rice as part of a 9-4 record in the last 13 contests. ECU also finished in a tie for fourth in the league standings at 9-7, just missing out on earning a first-round bye in the C-USA Tournament by losing a tiebreaker with Tulane.
Bringing a proven high-scoring and pressing style of play with her to ECU, Macy had the Pirates ranked high nationally in a number of statistical categories including scoring assists per game (46th), scoring offense (48th) and steals per game (51st). East Carolina drained 186 three-point field goals - the third-most in the league and just one shy of the single-season school record. Additionally, the Pirates produced the top two single-game scoring efforts of any C-USA squad with 102 points versus Virginia Union and 97 against Massachusetts.
While East Carolina lost over half of its scoring and rebounding from the 2010-11 team, Macy has countered by calling upon a number of talented transfer players and freshmen in advance of the season opener at College of Charleston on Nov. 11. Whitny and Britny Edwards (University of Virginia), Bryelle Smith (Clemson) and JUCO All-America selection Kristine Mial (Frederick Community College) join rookies Tatiana Chapple, Janesha Ebron and Dana Jones to complement a handful of returners in what should prove to be a vintage Macy type of squad.
The Edwards twins, daughters of former Pirate basketball great Blue Edwards, join the Pirates after playing for the University of Virginia. Both will be immediately eligible to compete for East Carolina after graduating from the Charlottesville-based institution in just three years. Whitny has one year of eligibility remaining while Britny owns two seasons due to redshirting the 2010-11 campaign.
Whitny, a 5-11 guard, played in all 35 contests for the Cavaliers last season, making nine starts while averaging 6.6 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. She was second on the squad in three-point field goals made with 32 while owning the top free throw percentage mark at .840 (42-of-50). Edwards also tied for the team lead with 43 steals. Sister Britny, a 6-1 forward, appeared in 23 games as a sophomore at Virginia.
Mial, a 5-9 forward, led Frederick and was sixth in the nation in scoring at 21.8 points per game, earning her National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Second-Team All-America honors. She paced Frederick to a 25-6 overall record and 10-3 ledger in the Maryland Junior College Conference (MJCC) as the Cougars reached the championship game of the Region XX Tournament. FCC also began the season with a 14-game winning streak.
Smith amassed a team-high 99 assists for Clemson last season while averaging 4.4 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. The 5-9 point guard was one of just two players on the roster who averaged at least double-digit minutes to sport a positive assist-turnover ratio and she has done so all three campaigns in a Tiger uniform. Smith started 26 of Clemson's 30 contests last season, scoring 10 points twice against league foes N.C. State and Wake Forest and finished ranked 12th in assists per game among all ACC players.
Early indications from preseason practices show freshmen Tatiana Chapple and Dana Jones ready to provide immediate impacts for East Carolina. Chapple was known as a lockdown defender in the basketball-rich Columbus, Ohio area while Jones has put on some muscle in the weight room to help make her game even more versatile than it was at Gulfport (Miss.) High School.
Stewart has relished the chance to be not only a vocal force on this year's team, but also a player who leads by example. The junior is well prepared to take that step. She played in all 31 games and made 21 starts - the fifth-most on the squad - while producing the top assist to turnover ratio for ECU at 1.6 (76 assists/49 turnovers), the third-highest among Conference USA players. Additionally, Stewart ranked second team-wise in total assists (76) and was one of six Pirates to average at least 20 minutes played per contest.
Meanwhile, Smith started the first nine games of the 2010-11 campaign as well as the final eight. Like Stewart, she was one of six players to average double figures in minutes played while scoring in double figures 10 times, including a career-high 22-point outburst against SMU on 10-for-14 shooting from the field.
East Carolina's non-conference schedule is highlighted by six home games against teams including regional rival VCU and in-state foe Elon. The Pirates will also face off against preseason No. 20 North Carolina as well as Colonial Athletic Association favorite Delaware. ECU could also match up opposite another nationally-ranked ACC squad in Maryland, who East Carolina played last year at Minges Coliseum.