JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Oct. 4, 2011) – The ETSU women’s basketball team started preparing for the 2011-12 season, as the Lady Bucs began official team practice on Sunday afternoon inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.
Head ETSU women’s basketball coach Karen Kemp returns for an 18th season at the helm, and she had time to give her thoughts on the first days of practice.
“This year is no different than any other year, as expectations from my end are very high,” said Kemp. “We expect to get the best out of our players, and I feel like we have been doing that during our preseason workouts. We are disappointed after the finish last season, so our players are eager to get going and work towards achieving our goal of winning a championship.”
The Lady Bucs, who are coming off a program-best sixth consecutive winning season, look to reclaim the Atlantic Sun Championship after having their three-year run come to a halt in 2010-11. ETSU finished the season 19-12 (15-5 in A-Sun play) a year ago, but the Lady Bucs were upset by Jacksonville in the semifinals of the conference tournament.
After losing two starters in point guard Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and post Latisha Belcher (Martinsville, Va.), the Lady Buccaneer coaching staff hit the ground running on the recruiting circuit. Five newcomers will don the Blue and Gold in 2011-12, while Serena Clark (Tucker, Ga.) will have to sit out this year after transferring over from Clemson.
With the departure of Davis and Belcher – a pair of 1,000-point starters and key pieces in ETSU’s three-peat run – Kemp and the Lady Bucs still return three starters as well as getting red-shirt senior guard Tarita Gordon (Wichita, Kan.) back for her final year. Prior to missing the entire 2010-11 campaign with a knee injury, Gordon was named to the Atlantic Sun All-Tournament Team following the 2010 championship, while also netting a career-high 30 points (5-of-8 from three) against Xavier in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Joining Gordon back from injury is Second Team All-Atlantic Sun selection, Destiny Mitchell (Bluffton, Ga.). Mitchell, the Lady Bucs’ top returning scorer (14.5) and rebounder (9.0), missed the final six games after dislocating her knee cap against North Florida back in February. The second-year player recorded 11 double-doubles as a freshman, while also collecting three A-Sun Newcomer of the Week honors and one A-Sun Player of the Week accolade.
Looking to close out their playing careers with one final championship run are seniors Natalie Pickwell (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Gwen Washington (Manassas, Va.). Pickwell had a breakout year as a junior after starting all 31 games and averaging 11.7 points and 2.3 three-pointers per game in 2010-11. Meanwhile, Washington – who hasn’t missed a game in her three years as a Lady Buc – enters her final season 168 points shy of becoming the 20th player in ETSU history to reach the 1,000-point club.
Starting Sunday, the Lady Bucs were allotted 30 practices in a 40-day span before opening their season with Tennessee Tech on Friday, Nov. 11 in the Preseason WNIT. Prior to the season-opener, ETSU hosts Carson-Newman (Nov. 3) and King College (Nov. 7) in exhibition games.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer basketball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.