Aggies WBB Looks to Turn The Corner in 2017-18
North Carolina A&T head coach Tarrell Robinson embarks on his sixth season of the women’s basketball program and is a win shy of his 100th coaching victory. In 2016-17, the Aggies went 14-18 overall, 8-8 in the MEAC. Posting a losing record is something that is very unusual for the women’s basketball program. It was just their second losing season in the past 12 years.
Prior to the last season Robinson had led the Aggies to three consecutive 20-win seasons, a conference championship and an NCAA Tournament bid. The Aggies did reach the conference tournament semifinals for the fifth straight season.
“We talk the most with our ladies after every practice, every game is about getting better,” said Robinson. “We want to be playing our best basketball at the end of the season. We are trending toward that even though last season we had a losing record, we have already started to turn the corner.”
Filling the voids created by the departure of five players from 2016-17 roster, including sharpshooter Dana Brown (5-7, G, Willow Springs, NC), all-everything graduate student Aliyah Kilpatrick (5-foot-8, G, Charlotte, NC) and four-year veteran Whitney Martin (5-9, G, Charlottesville, Va.), will not be an easy task. Brown made 178 career 3-pointers and Kilpatrick led the Aggies in scoring, steals, assists, 3-point field goal percentage and free throw made and attempted.
For the Aggies to return to the top of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference standings, a pair of seniors are charged with leading the bunch. Kala Green (5-9, G, Sr., Round Rock, Texas) and Quenswayla Story (6-1, F, Sr., Richmond, Va.) have helped the Aggies compile 53 wins, a regular-season MEAC title, a MEAC championship and an NCAA appearance.
Story made 18 starts, averaging 5.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and was second on the team in free-throw percentage. Her mid-range jumps shot has been effective for the Aggies for three seasons. “Quenswayla sets the tone, and I anticipate her having a special year based on her buy-in and focus as a senior,” Robinson said.
Green started in 21 of 29 games and was second on the Aggies in both 3-point field goals made and steals while ranking 13th in the MEAC in assists per game (2.3). “Both Quenswayla and Kayla played on our 2016 MEAC championship team and knows what it takes for us to get back. We hope that they can build off that experience and are willing to work even harder this year.”
Also returning to the Aggies after a breakout freshman season is MEAC All-Rookie team member Alexus Lessears (6-3, C, So., Cleveland, Ohio). Lessears averaged 6.8 points and ranked seventh in the conference in rebounds (7.4). She led the Aggies in rebounding 18 times and in scoring twice while registering three double-doubles as a rookie.
“Alexus got a taste of Division I basketball coming in as a freshman, and we asked a lot of her last year. In the past, we always had a dominant presence on both ends of the floor in the post. We are going to count on her to hold that middle down.”
Lessears and a host of other sophomores are expected to make impacts after seeing extended playing time as freshmen. Heading into conference play, Cinia McCray’s (5-9, G, So., Broadview, Ill.) minutes increased and she netted four games in double-figure scoring. Le’on Hill (6-2, F, So., Columbia, SC) has great length and can be a key piece for the Aggies. Hill was second on the team in total blocks (10) and can defend every position with her athleticism. Shantell Bostick (5-7, G, So., Cleveland, Ohio) made five starts playing valuable minutes as a freshman. Chrishyanah Alston (5-9, F, So., New Castle, Del.) is a special talent for Robinson adding depth to the back court and averaged 2.7 points and 1.4 rebounds.
Two newcomers with valuable college basketball experience will hopefully make a strong impact much in the same way Kilpatrick did a year ago after transferring in from Winthrop as a graduate transfer. The experienced newcomers are highlighted by C’Coriea Foy (6-0, G, So., Fayetteville, NC) and Jade Scaife (5-11, F, Gr., Fort Washington, Md.). Foy transferred from the University of Alabama and Scaife is a graduate transfer from UNC Greensboro.
Scaife played in 97 games for the Spartans. Foy played in 14 games for Alabama and per NCAA rules for transfers, sat out last season, earning valuable experience in Robinson’s system.
Another newcomer with not as much experience as Scaife is Appalachian State transfer Mikaya Wilson (5-6, G, So., Raleigh, N.C.). Wilson brings tons of athleticism having participated in basketball, track and field and volleyball while at Knightdale High School. The true freshman on the roster is Morgan Batie (5-7, F, Richmond, Va., Richmond Christian School). Batie scored more than 1,000-career points in high school.
“I am excited about this upcoming season after a subpar season in 2017,” said Robinson. “I am interested to see if our veteran leadership along with the experience of seven sophomores can get us back to being one of the top three or four programs in the league and having a chance to compete for a championship.”
The Aggies led the conference in 3-point field goal defense (.277), was second in rebounding (42.8) and third in assists (11.6). The Aggies schedule features 15 home games, two opponents from Power Five conferences, three non-conference home games against Division I in-state foes and their usual competitive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference slate of games. In total, the Aggies will face three teams who made the NCAA tournament in 2017 in Elon, Hampton and Auburn. Four teams – Bethune-Cookman, Duquesne, Harvard and Ohio – made the WNIT. N.C. A&T plays at home in the renovated Corbett Sports Center for three of their first four games starting with Georgia Southern on Nov. 10 at 5 p.m.