Johnson City, Tenn. (Nov. 9, 2006) - The ETSU women's basketball is set to open its 39th season Friday night against the second ranked North Carolina Tar Heels at Carmichael Auditorium. The Lady Bucs are looking to win their third straight regular season opener, as they defeated Mississippi State, 78-53 last season, and beat Tennessee Tech, 81-77 to open the 2004-05 season. ETSU has not won three consecutive regular season openers since the 1996-97 season.
ETSU fans will be able to view the game through a live webcast by visiting http://unc.playonsports.tv/. For more information regarding the Lady Bucs please visit www.ETSUBucs.com or check out the 2006-07 preview below.
The 2006-07 Lady Buccaneers Breakdown
After coming off an impressive inaugural season in the A-Sun Conference with a record of 18-10 (14-6), the Lady Bucs are looking to post back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons. The 18 wins by ETSU marked the third highest total in school history and were the second most in Head Coach Karen Kemp's 12-year tenure.
The Lady Bucs are returning two seniors and five juniors, including the conference's Defensive Player of the Year, Nichelle Akers. However, a new season brings new faces as coach Kemp brought in five freshmen and revamped her entire coaching staff. New to the staff are Eric White, Matt Smith and former ETSU standout DeShawne Blocker. "After only a short time together as a staff, I can already see the chemistry and know that we will complement each other well," Kemp said.
Despite losing their top scorers in B.J. Banjo (19.1ppg) and Candace Gibson (12.3ppg), the Lady Bucs are returning starters Jenny Norman (6.1ppg), Nichelle Akers (5.5ppg) and Brooke Wilhoit (5.3ppg). The leading returning scorer for ETSU is junior Michele DeVault (10.5ppg), who can expect to see significant minutes in 2006-07.
During their final season, Brooke Wilhoit (Sevierville, Tenn.) and Holly Moring (Irmo, S.C.) will need to provide the leadership on and off the court for the Lady Bucs. The guards will be asked to help keep the team focused and act like coaches as the team prepares to make a run at the Atlantic Sun Championship.
"We are going to look for the seniors to provide the leadership for the rest of the team," said Kemp. "Our freshmen need Brooke and Holly to show them direction both on and off the court."
Since stepping on campus in 2003, Wilhoit has made a name for her early on as she was named to the All-Southern Conference Freshman Team, and has been one of the most consistent players for the Lady Bucs. In three seasons, she has played in all 85 games for the Lady Bucs and has averaged 27.9 minutes per game. Wilhoit causes a lot of problems for opposing defenses as she can shoot the three, as well as create plays by finding the open player and generate assists. She is not afraid to attack the glass as she grabbed 105 rebounds last season, tying her with Jenny Norman as the leading returnees. Last season she led the Bucs in assists (99), ranked second in minutes played (28.6) and ranked third in steals (44) and three-point field goals made (20). Her 99 assists also put her sixth among the Atlantic Sun leaders.
"Brooke is a natural leader and is an extension as a coach when she is on the floor," added Kemp. "She gives 100 percent effort all the time and I hope her hard work ethic will rub off on the entire team."
Seeing action in 22 games last season, Moring averaged 3.5 ppg and made 16 three-pointers which were fourth best among the Lady Bucs. Being an electric spark off the bench, Moring set a new career-high last season; by draining five threes against
"Holly will be expected to be more consistent on both ends of the floor and provide more of a threat beyond the arc with her shot," said Kemp.
This year's junior class provides a lot of experience as it includes five returning players from last season. All five of these athletes will be called upon this season, including the reigning Atlantic Sun Defensive Player of the Year, Nichelle Akers (Sumter, S.C.). Coach Kemp will need to rely on Jenny Norman (Peachtree City, Ga.) and Michele DeVault (Columbus, Ohio) to replace Candace Gibson's presence in the key and crash the boards. Kelly Turman (Atlanta, Ga.) will see significant minutes at the guard position as well. Alisha Holmes (Orangeburg, S.C.) who was expected to see increased playing time this season went down with a season-ending injury earlier in the fall.
After being a thorn in the side on the defensive end, Akers has to continue using her skills, keeping up the intensity she brings to the floor. According to Kemp, she needs to start creating more on offense by being able to put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket. Last season, Akers increased her numbers in almost every statistical category and either tied or set new personal bests. Her nine steals against
"She needs to be more comfortable with her ball handling skills and attacking the defense with her speed," added Kemp. "She is a natural athlete, as she can run, jump and defend with ease. She just needs to build up the confidence in her ball handling in order to create more shots on the offensive end."
With the departure of Candace Gibson,
"Jenny and Michele have the size and strength to dominate in the A-Sun, we just need them to be more aggressive," said Kemp. "Michele is a competitor and she can play with her back to the basket or shoot from beyond the arc, which creates match-up problems for the opposition."
At the guard slot, Turman will be counted on to contribute more this season.
Averaging 14.4 mpg last season Turman, showed signs of success in her sophomore season, and can expect to see more action this season. Turman averaged 6.7 ppg for the Lady Bucs last season and will be called upon to use her ability to score often this season.
"Turman knows how to generate points on her own, but needs to learn how to be more aggressive around the glass," said Kemp. She will be expected to step up and contribute more this season."
As the Lady Bucs don't feature a sophomore class, coach Kemp was able to add five new underclassmen to the roster this season. Guards TaRonda Wiles (Danville, Va.) and Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) will be joined by forwards Brianna McClelland (Douglas, Ga.), Devin Thompson (Smyrna, Tenn.) and Latisha Belcher (Ridgeway, Va.) to complete 2006-07 ETSU roster.
Evans is entering the 2006-07 season from
An all-around athlete in basketball, volleyball and track, Belcher, arrived on campus from
Finally to complete the roster is the only
"The freshmen are going to be asked to contribute immediately and compete like sophomores since we don't have a sophomore class," added Kemp. "They have the talent to make an immediate impact and compete at this level."
The Atlantic Sun
The Lady Bucs are entering their second season in the A-Sun where they had a successful inaugural season by posting 14 victories. The 14 wins were the most conference wins under coach Kemp in her 12 years at ETSU. With tournament champion Florida Atlantic departing to the Sun Belt Conference,
The Lady Bucs will be looking forward to conference play in 2006-07, as they have are 16-8 (.667) against remaining conference foes, including perfect marks against Jacksonville, Kennesaw State, Lipscomb and North Florida. Mercer is the only team ETSU has a losing record against, and Mercer handed the Lady Bucs a devastating loss in the opening round of the A-Sun Tournament last year.
"I feel more comfortable entering our second season in the A-Sun, as we now know the different styles and systems," said Kemp. "I like the parity the conference has to offer; from top to bottom anyone can win so we always have to be prepared."
Coach Kemp and the Lady Bucs open year two in the A-Sun on the road, traveling to Mercer on Nov. 30 and Stetson on Dec. 2. Conference play comes to the
The Non-Conference Schedule
ETSU will face three 2006 NCAA Tournament participants, when they open the season at
"I have always thought in order to be the best you have to compete against the best," said Kemp. "Playing against this level of competition will only make us better and prepare us for conference play. It's going to be a challenge, but our team is going to be ready for the test as they are excited to compete against the best athletes."