JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (October 5, 2015) – Coming off the second-best turnaround in the NCAA last season the ETSU women's basketball team returned to the court officially starting preseason practice for the 2015-16 season on Monday inside Brooks Gym.
It was a high energy practice focused on defense and hustle plays that are pivotal throughout the regular and postseason play. With eight returning players along with a talented group of freshman and transfers the Bucs coaching staff is excited to return to the court.
“I am expecting them to be energetic and ready to go,” said head coach Brittney Ezell. “There conditioning level has really improved and today will be the day to showcase the work they have done this fall.”
The Blue & Gold begin the 2015 campaign a little over a month from now when they host UNC Asheville on Nov.13 at 7:00 p.m. inside Brooks Gym. Last year ETSU experienced a 16-game win progression from 2013, the second-best turnaround in the NCAA. The Bucs recorded an 11-3 mark in Southern Conference play and made it to the SoCon Tournament final, falling in overtime to nationally-ranked Chattanooga.
ETSU appeared in the Women's National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) for the third time in school history and hosted their first round game against Atlantic Coast Conference member, NC State.
The Bucs return eight from a season ago with a trio of guards in sophomore Tianna Tarter (Johnson City, Tenn.), junior Shamauri Bridges (Miramar, Fla.) and senior Chandler Christopher (Greeneville, Tenn.) leading the backcourt.
“Our guards are who we are going to lean on early until our young post players catch up to the learning curve that we have established,” said Ezell. “However they can’t carry the load all season, so we hope that the young ones to grow up fast.”
Of the returning guards Tarter is the catalyst for the offense as she took the Southern Conference by storm last year averaging 11.8 points per game en route to being named to the SoCon All-Freshman team and was a First Team All-SoCon tournament selection. Bridges led the Bucs in scoring with 12.8 points per game, the most by a ETSU player since 2009.
In the paint, the Bucs lost multiple starters to graduation but senior Shomari Kendrick (Lexington, Ky.) looks to lead a young group of post players like freshman Raven Dean (Charlotte, N.C.) along with junior college transfer Yamile Rodgriguez (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic).
“What we need from them early is to defend, run and rebound and hope that their offense game continues to mature throughout the season,” said Ezell.
Joining an experienced group is five newcomers including freshman Carley Lytton (Floyd, Va.) who garnered First Team All-State honors along with First Team All-State Tournament team recognition. Lytton led her high school team to the Group A Division II Virginia State Championship. Joining Lytton is freshman Sadasia Tipps (Hickory, N.C.) who led Hickory High School to a 29-1 record en route to a NCHSAA State Championship.
"You want kids who know how to win and you want kids who are accustomed to winning,” said Ezell. “I have seen tremendous athleticism from Sadasia Tipps and have seen Carley Lytton’s confidence grow leaps and bounds in her ability to shoot the ball with range.”
Ezell's third season gets underway on Nov. 13 when they take on the Bulldogs of UNC Asheville inside Brooks Gym at 7 p.m. The Bucs then embark on an early two-game road trip to Winston-Salem, N.C. to take on the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest on Nov. 15 before heading to Boone, N.C. to challenge Appalachian State on Nov. 19.
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For more information on Buccaneer women’s basketball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the women’s basketball page.