GREENSBORO – Whistles, drills, cones, sprints, buzzers, bouncing balls, and the sound of sneakers rubbing against the hardwood floors of Corbett Sports Center can mean only one thing – it’s basketball season.
The North Carolina A&T women’s basketball team has been back in the gym since Sept. 30 with the emphasis on getting back to the basics. The Aggies have also been focusing a lot of their efforts on defense, which second-year head coach Tarrell Robinson credits as one of his team’s biggest strengths along with their versatility to play multiple positions.
“You can tell that they’re pushing each other and trying to make each other better,” Robinson said. “They’re really focusing on the little things and not so much the big things. The ladies are doing a good job of holding each other accountable.”
Although Robinson likes what he’s seen from his 2013-14 squad in practice over the past few weeks, he knows that the Aggies still have a long way to go in order to make their dreams of winning a MEAC title and advancing in the NCAA tournament turn into realities. Realities are created in practice, and for the Aggies, practice has been really competitive.
“It’s an improvement because we have returners who understand what I expect,” Robinson said about practice. “They understand a lot of our principles and a lot of our drills. They’re helping the newer players grasp those concepts a lot quicker than last season. Now we’re completing everything on my practice plan which is exciting.”
Returning among the first five will be senior forward Tracy King, junior guard Ariel Bursey and redshirt-sophomore center Eboni Ross who was named the MEAC Rookie of the Year last season. Also returning is senior forward DeAndra Davis and junior point guard Adriana Nazario.
A&T welcomed four transfers – Christina Carter (Virginia Commonwealth), Temitope Oladele (Central Arizona CC), Debbie Smith (James Madison) and redshirt-sophomore Aprill McRae (Virginia Commonwealth) – along with four freshmen in Kenya Hailey, Whitney Martin, Mia Rudd and Makayla Williams.
With eight newcomers, the young Aggies will have to look to their upperclassmen for leadership. But that’s one area that A&T isn’t lacking in as King, Davis and Smith were named captains.
“Tracy is more so the vocal one,” Robinson explained. “DD (DeAndra Davis) and Debbie lead by example. Just because they are captains doesn’t mean that they are the only ones with leadership qualities. One of our freshmen, Kenya is showing a lot of promise. Aprill and Christina are showing a lot of leadership qualities. Collectively I think we have a bunch of leaders … it’s really refreshing to see as a head coach.”
There are high expectations for Robinson and his group of Aggies after posting a 22-10 record, appearing in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) and finishing second in the MEAC in 2012-13.
Reminiscing about last season still gives Aggie fans, past and current players and alumni a rush of pride and support for A&T. But the past is the past. The Aggies have moved on to establishing a new season, new opportunities, new memories but all with the same goals.
“I have no idea what this season is going to bring,” Robinson said with a smile on his face. “After last season, a tough standard has been set but I think this group has a chance to do better than last year. Our goal every year is to win a championship. We fell short last year. We made the postseason, which was one of our goals. We also wanted to win in postseason, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. Those are things we haven’t accomplished that we’re trying to shoot for this year.”
Robinson will get a glimpse of what his team looks like when A&T hosts Christopher Newport University in an exhibition game on Monday, Nov. 4 at 5 p.m., at Corbett Sports Center. A&T opens the 2013-14 season in the Preseason WNIT against Quinnipiac on Friday, November 8.