Even though North Carolina A&T women’s basketball team went 16-0 in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) play last season, the Aggies are looking to improve from last season. N.C. A&T fell in the semifinals of the MEAC tournament to Norfolk State to snap their 28-game MEAC winning streak.
The expectations for this season’s team is very high as the Aggies are expected to win the MEAC. N.C. A&T secured 12 first-place votes and 229 points. This season, the Aggies return 10 letterwinners from last season and only lost three letterwinners. The Aggies return 2019 MEAC preseason player of the year C’coriea Foy (6-foot, SR, guard, Fayetteville, N.C.), preseason second-team member Cinia McCray (5-9, SR, guard, Broadview, Ill.) and third-team member Alexus Lessears (6-3, SR, center, Cleveland, Ohio).
“We are up to the challenge,” said N.C. A&T coach Tarrell Robinson said. “This is something that we as a program want to be considered as one of the best programs in the state of North Carolina and then having to play a top-25 program on top of that. We don’t back down from these types of opportunities.”
Foy averaged 13.4 points per game last season to rank 13th in the MEAC. Her 2.6 steals per game ranked second in the league. McCray shot .362 from the field and averaged 12.3 points per game. She was 14th in the conference in shooting and 15th in scoring. Lessears’ 6.4 rebounds per game were good enough to rank 12th in the MEAC and her 1.4 blocks per contest were sixth in the league.
N.C. A&T losses include Chamise Tyler, Charme Lilly and Rayven Peeples. Tyler played in 31 games with 15 starts and averaged 5.7 points and 5.4 rebounds, while Lilly played in 16 games with three starts and averaged 5.6 points and 1.3 rebounds. Peeples played in 24 games with 14 starts and was second on the team with 6.3 rebounds per game and averaged 6.9 points.
The Aggies also return two guards who are pretty good from the perimeter in Taya Jones (5-9, SO, guard, Red Springs, N.C.) and Jasmen Walton (5-11, SO, guard, Baltimore, Md.). Jones and Walton showed the ability to be consistent 3-point shooters last season which could help the Aggies post play.
Speaking of the post. The Aggies return effective rebounder and defender Le'on Hill (6-2, SR, forward, Columbia, S.C.). Hill is a consistent shot blocker and she is pretty tenacious on the offensive glass. Kendra Ross (6-3, SO, center, Forest City, N.C.) can play inside and outside the post. She attempted 13 3-pointers last season.
Then there are the Aggies point guards who Robinson says are interchangeable. In addition to running the Aggies offense, Mikaya Wilson (5-6, SR, guard, Raleigh, N.C.) and Shantell Bostick (5-7, SR, guard, Cleveland, Ohio) allow the Aggies to come at opponents in waves defensively because each player is good at putting pressure on the ball handler. Bostick averaged 22.3 minutes and Wilson averaged 19.0 minutes per game last season.
The Aggies welcome four newcomers including three transfers. Two of the transfers are from Seton Hall in Jayla Jones-Pack (6-3, JR, center, Amityville, N.Y.) and Deja Winters (5-11, JR, forward, Cleveland, Ohio). Jones-Pack averaged 2.6 points and 2.8 rebounds during her two seasons at Seton Hall.
Winters averaged 5.2 points and 2.2 rebounds while shooting .332 from the field including .309 from the 3-point line.
Kennedy Boyd (5-7, SO, guard, Mint Hill, N.C.) is a former ESPN three-star athlete who transferred from the University of North Carolina. The Aggies have two freshmen on the team in Ya’taria Coleman (5-9, FR, guard, Memphis, Tenn.) and Shayla Nelson (5-11, FR, forward, Goose Creek, S.C.).
Coleman averaged 13.0 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals in her junior high school season. Nelson was a two-time All-State performer who scored 1,356 points and grabbed 755 rebounds and Goose Creek High School.
“I thought that we had a pretty good preseason in terms of our scrimmages and practices,” said Robinson. “Defensively, we are hitting on all cylinders. Then you add Jayla and Deja Winters, two transfers that also played against the same type of competition we have played against, so they are excited to help us out on our journey this year. The same group two years ago played against the defending national champions well in the NCAA. I know that they know what it takes.”
Robinson returns for his eighth season this season as he’s posted a 142-79 record in seven seasons. This is the fifth time under Robinson that the Aggies are picked to win the conference and only the second time in school history that an Aggie was picked to be the conference player of the year.
The Aggies have won three of the last four regular-season titles. The Aggies face two teams that are ranked in the Associated Press Top-25. The opening game is against No. 14 N.C. State. The Aggies also face the Miami Hurricanes in Chicago as part of the DePaul Maggie Dixon Classic before Thanksgiving. The Canes are 18th in the country.
N.C. A&T faces six teams that made the postseason last season. NCSU, Miami, Clemson and Bethune-Cookman made the NCAA tournament, while VCU and Morehead State made the NIT along with the Aggies.