ETSU women's hoops set to kick off season opener Friday night
Thursday, November 8, 2007

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (Nov. 8, 2007) - The East Tennessee State women's basketball team kicks off its 2007-08 regular season Friday night, as they travel to Western Kentucky for the first round of the Preseason WNIT. Tip is set for 7 p.m. ET from E.A. Diddle Arena.


Below is a preview of the first round match-up:


The Last Time Out

The Lady Bucs are coming off an 89-61 victory over Wingate last Sunday. Sophomore TaRonda Wiles (Danville, Va.) scored a game-high 21 points (9-of-16 from the field) and finished with six rebounds, four steals, four assists and two blocks in the victory. Sophomore and last season's Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year, Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) collected a double-double as well. The Griffin, Ga. native ended with 13 points and a game-best 14 rebounds. As a team, ETSU's tenacious defense caused too many problems for the Bulldogs. ETSU forced 38 Bulldog turnovers, leading to 35 points on the other end. For the contest, the Lady Bucs out-rebounded Wingate, 53-47, forced 23 steals, and held the Bulldogs to only seven second half field goals.


Western Kentucky defeated Lindsey Wilson, 95-62, in its lone exhibition game last Sunday inside E.A. Diddle Arena. The Lady Toppers were led by Crystal Kelly who finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds. LWC kept it close in the first half, but WKU opened the second frame on a 13-3 run and never looked back from there. Dominique Duck scored 16 of her 20 points in the first 20 minutes of action, while she and Kelly combined to go 19-for-24 from the charity stripe. For the ballgame, WKU went 31-of-40 from the free throw line and shot 47.8 percent (32-67) from the field. The Lady Toppers return four starters and six letterwinners from last season's club that finished with a 23-9 mark and reached the WNIT semifinals.


The Series

The Lady Toppers hold a 3-2 advantage in the short-lived series. The match-up began on Jan. 14, 1978 when WKU defeated ETSU, 81-70, in Johnson City; however the Lady Bucs returned the favor the very next season by downing the Lady Toppers, 78-73, again in Johnson City. WKU won the last meeting in the series, 86-56, back on Dec. 11, 2005 in Bowling Green. ETSU has never defeated WKU inside the Lady Toppers home arena, as the Lady Bucs are 0-2 lifetime.


Player Watch

ETSU will be led be senior Michele DeVault (Columbus, Ohio) and Evans. DeVault led the Lady Buccaneers in scoring a year ago, averaging 12.4ppg in 32 contests; while Evans averaged 12.2 points and team-high 7.3 rebounds last season. Both DeVault and Evans were voted to the A-Sun Preseason All-Conference Team.


Western Kentucky will be looking for Crystal Kelly, a 2008 All-American candidate, to guide the Lady Toppers. Kelly nearly missed averaging a double-double last season, ending the year with 24.1 points and 9.4 rebounds. Junior forward Dominique Duck will also be asked to step us this season after finishing last year with 11.8 points and 4.8 boards per game.


Broadcast Info

Audio and video will be available Friday courtesy of Western Kentucky athletics. Fans can watch all the action by visiting


A Look Ahead

The winner of Friday's game will face the winner of Miami (Ohio) and Notre Dame in the second round of the Preseason WNIT between Nov.11-13. The loser will be placed in one of two four-team consolation brackets and will play Friday, Nov. 16 and Saturday, Nov. 17 at a site yet to be determined. The Lady Bucs have never faced Notre Dame or Miami (Ohio).


Please visit for more information on Lady Buccaneer basketball and all other ETSU athletic news.


Below is the 2007-08 Lady Buccaneer preview:


Coming off its second-ever postseason appearance and its third highest win total in program history, the 2007-08 ETSU Lady Buccaneers will look continue their success as they return 82.4 percent of their scoring and 88.5 percent rebounding from last season. The 20-12, 14-4 (Atlantic Sun) mark was the best season since head coach Karen Kemp took over the reigns in 1994. By returning nine players from last year's squad, ETSU will look to compile its third consecutive winning season for the first time in 23 years.


The Lady Bucs will have a deep bench this season as their roster features four seniors, five sophomores and four freshmen. Looking to lead the charge for ETSU will be senior Michele DeVault and sophomore Siarre Evans. DeVault started in all 32 contests last season, averaging a Buc-best 12.4 ppg and led the squad in free throw shooting with an 86.0 percentage. Evans, last seasons Atlantic Sun Freshmen of the Year, will join DeVault in the scoring department after averaging 12.2 ppg. Along with her scoring skills, the super sophomore will also be counted on to clean up around the boards as she led the team in rebounding, with 7.3 per contest.


Despite losing team captains Brooke Wilhoit and Holly Moring to graduation, along with Alisha Holmes (transferred), the 2007-08 Lady Buccaneers show enough firepower to contend for their first conference title since 1995, and the programs first-ever berth to the NCAA Tournament. 


Below is a breakdown of the Lady Buccaneer squad and an inside look of what Coach Kemp expects from each player in 2007-08:


Seniors (4)

The senior class of Nichelle Akers, Jenny Norman, Kelly Turman and DeVault will be expected to lead the Lady Bucs both on and off the court during their final year at ETSU. Akers, Norman and DeVault started a combined 95 of 96 contests last season, while Turman was the leading scorer off the bench, averaging 8.2 per game. The seniors will have to step up and keep the team focused as they use their leadership to help guide the team to a run at the Atlantic Sun Championship.


Nichelle Akers (G) - Nichelle will have to step up and be the defensive stopper she was as a sophomore.  She is the quickest player that I have ever coached and her role will be to stop our opponents best perimeter player.


Michele DeVault (G/F) - Michelle is a worker and she must continue to do this.  She creates difficult match-ups for opponents, because she can play with her back to the basket or face up and shoot the three.


Jenny Norman (C) - Jenny made a lot of improvement last season, but she will be asked to step it up even more as a senior. Jenny will need to be more of a presence on the boards.


Kelly Turman (G) - Kelly is a scorer and she knows her role on this team. When we need points Kelly will have to step in and give us a lift in those game-time situations.


Sophomores (5)

After a talented rookie season where the freshmen were called upon to play like sophomores, this class will have another daunting task this season as they will have to step up a class and play like juniors. This class stepped up in a big way for the Lady Bucs last season, as three freshmen sensations received postseason conference honors. Siarre Evans, Devin Thompson and Latisha Belcher each received hardware from the A-Sun for their hard work on the floor, while TaRonda Wiles was recognized for her work in the classroom, as she was named to the A-Sun All-Academic list. 


Latisha Belcher (F) - Latisha has the ability to be one of the top post players in the conference.  Latisha needs to stay healthy and get a little stronger; by accomplishing this she will be hard to handle on both ends of the court. Tish loves to play defense and rebound which is great, but we will need her to become a little more offensive minded this year.


Siarre Evans (G) - What can I say about Siarre; she is a very gifted basketball player, and knows how to play the game. I have very high expectations for her this season. After being named Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year, she can expect to see more pressure this season as all of our opponents will be keying in on her.  I know she is ready for the challenge. Siarre worked extremely hard in the off season to improve her outside shooting and her defense.  With improvements in these areas she will be the total package.


Brianna McClelland (F) - Brianna has worked extremely hard to improve her conditioning and overall game.  I expect her to contribute to this year's team especially with her defensive and rebounding abilities.


Devin Thompson (F) - Devin had a very good freshman year, and I expect her sophomore season to be even better.  Devin worked hard in the weight room during the off-season and gained strength, which will help her game on both ends of the court.  We will need for her to improve defensively and rebounding.


TaRonda Wiles (G) - TaRonda is one of the most natural basketball players that I have ever coached.  She is very athletic and often makes moves that amaze me.  "T" has the ability to be one of our best perimeter defenders because of her size and quickness.  This should be a breakout year for her.


Freshman (4)

Once again coach Kemp and her staff did an excellent job finding top recruits that will be able to step right in and contribute for the Lady Bucs. The class features three guards and one post player; all who can expect to see significant minutes during their rookie campaign. Brittany Daniels received the nickname "Shaq" after averaging 23 points and 14 rebounds during her senior season at Randolph-Clay. Three guards expected to step in and fill the shoes of Wilhoit and Holmes, include Tara Davis, Kami Phillips, and Sabrina Treakle. 


Brittany Daniels (F) - Brittany is a power post player, and is very good with her back to the basket.  When she gets the ball she usually scores or gets to the free throw line.  Brittany will have to improve her defensive foot work, but I feel she will be able to step in and contribute immediately.


Tara Davis (G) - Tara has a very good overall game. In high school, she had to do a lot of different things for her team, so she is skilled in many areas.  I look for Tara to contribute to this team on both ends of the court.


Kami Phillips (G) - Kami is the fastest player on the team and will be competing for a starting position at the point.  She is a great passer and loves to make the assist.  Kami will have to learn how to play hard every second that she is on the court, when she understands this she will be a very good player for us.


Sabrina Treakle (G) - Sabrina will also compete for playing time at the point guard position.  She brings a different look to this position because she is a scorer.  Sabrina will have to work hard to improve her defensive game, but once she masters that area she will be a big threat as a freshman.


The Atlantic Sun

The Atlantic Sun features a new divisional format in 2007-08, meaning teams in the same division will meet twice, while conference members in the other division will only face each other once. The Lady Bucs will be placed in the North Division with Lipscomb, Belmont, Gardner-Webb, Campbell, and USC-Upstate. The South Division consists of Jacksonville, Stetson, Florida Gulf Coast, North Florida, Mercer, and Kennesaw State.


North Florida, Kennesaw State, and Mercer are the three conference members from the south division that visit Johnson City, while Jacksonville, Stetson and FGCU mark the three road trips for ETSU. 


After finishing tied for second last season with Jacksonville at 14-4, both teams are picked to be the leaders in 2007-08. The coaches voted Jacksonville the league's top team in the preseason rankings, while the media had the Lady Bucs take home the trophy. Both Evans and DeVault were selected to the All-Conference Preseason Team.


The Atlantic Sun Tournament follows a rigorous regular season campaign, which will be hosted in Nashville by Lipscomb University. ETSU will look to avenge last year's conference final loss to Belmont, and hoist the Atlantic Sun Championship trophy for the first time in school history.


The Non-Conference Schedule

A first-ever trip to the Preseason WNIT, road games to BIG EAST foe Georgetown, SEC challenger Alabama and Atlantic 10 Tournament Champion Xavier, six 2007 postseason tournament participants, and 13 home contests all await the ETSU women's basketball team in 2007-08. For the eighth consecutive year the Lady Bucs will open on the road, as they face Western Kentucky in the first round of the WNIT.


Following the WNIT, the Lady Bucs head back to Johnson City, and host Southern Conference Tournament Champion Chattanooga in their home opener on Tuesday, Nov. 20. ETSU remains home for the conclusion of the month of November and the beginning of December as Evansville (Nov. 24) and Big South Tournament Champion UNC Asheville (Dec. 1) visit Memorial Center.


ETSU then embarks on a five-game road trip, marking its longest of the season. The trip spans from Dec. 6 through Jan. 2, and includes trips to Davidson (Dec. 6), Xavier (Dec. 16), Radford (Dec. 20), Georgetown (Dec. 22), and Alabama (Jan. 2).


Rounding out the non-conference portion of the schedule is Liberty and Appalachian State. The Lady Bucs host the Lady Flames on Jan. 8, while ETSU travels to Boone, N.C. to face the Mountaineers on Jan. 16.


Before the season started head coach Karen Kemp had time to sit down and answer some questions about the upcoming season…


(Q) You have 82.4 percent of your scoring, 88.5 percent of your rebounding, and nine returning players coming back from one of the most illustrious seasons in ETSU history. How do you view the upcoming season after such a successful 2006-07 campaign? 


(A) I am extremely excited about this year's team because we do have so much experience returning.  After having some success last year we are even more focused on winning a conference championship and making the first ever NCAA appearance in women's basketball history.  This team has a lot of confidence in themselves and each other.  We are one team with one goal.


(Q) Who are a couple younger players you expect to step up and make a bigger impact this season?


(A) Latisha Belcher and TaRonda Wiles both battled injuries throughout the season last year but really came on at the end.  TaRonda and Latisha worked extremely hard during the off season to strengthen their weaknesses.  I am looking for them to have breakout sophomore seasons.


(Q) What kind of players are your freshmen?  


(A)Hard working and committed.  All four had very successful high school careers and will bring a lot of depth to our program.  I am anxious to see them compete at the Division I level.



(Q) Does not having a junior class make a difference to this team?


(A) Not having a junior class does have its ups and downs.  The negative is that we do not have as much leadership from upperclassman as I would like, but the positive is that our sophomore class had to contribute a lot as freshman. By being called upon a lot last season, gives them the experiences that most sophomores do not have.  I told them as freshman that they had to be sophomores, so this year they will have to lead like they are juniors.


(Q) Year in and year out you always focus on creating a strong non-conference schedule. How does this help strengthen your team come conference play?


(A) I have always believed if you want to be the best you have to play a very challenging schedule, so this is why we play a tough non-conference schedule. I think if you prepare by playing a strong non-conference schedule we will be prepared and ready for conference play.


(Q) The Lady Bucs lost key point guards in Brooke Wilhoit (graduation) and Alisha Holmes (transfer), how do you look to fill these important losses? 


(A)   The point guard position is very critical to a team's success and we graduated a very good point guard in Brooke and lost Alisha.  However, I know Kami and Sabrina are ready to step up to the challenge.  Kami is a true point guard coming in, where Brooke developed into the role.  Sabrina is a much better scorer than Alisha, so we will have a different look there as well.  I will definitely miss their experience, but I am very excited about both Kami and Sabrina.


(Q) Last season the injury bug hurt this team at times. How important is it to have everyone stay injury-free and get through the season without any missing any action?


(A)   Injury can always change the complexion of a team and a season; however, I feel like we have the depth to make up for a loss if that were to happen. Of course, I hope we can stay injury free. 


(Q) How important will the senior class be to this year's team?


(A) Leadership, Leadership, Leadership.  That is the main role for our senior class.  We have sophomores and freshman that can play, but the seniors know what it takes to compete at the Division I level.  They will let the players know you have to play hard every time they step on the floor.