GREENSBORO-The North Carolina A&T women's basketball
team will be opening up the 2012-13 season on Friday night by taking on No. 18
Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb.
It's a demanding start to what will be a competitive season,
but first-year head coach Tarrell Robinson is eager for the challenge, hoping
it will set a good tone for the remainder of the season.
"Playing Nebraska to start the season off gives us an idea
of what level you need to play to be in the top 25 in the country, in reference
to how intense you need to be, how you need to consistently play hard,"
Robinson said. "I think that's a problem
that our girls have. They don't always
play hard. They take breaks on the
court. We've got to improve from that."
While his team has the talent, he's looking for them to
commit to giving it their all. Stepping
into the role as head coach of the program in May, Robinson inherited a roster
that included the following returnees--a career 1,000 point scorer and two-time
All-MEAC player (JaQuayla Berry), a guard who is closing in on the school's
all-time assists record (Amber Calvin), a 6-time MEAC Rookie of the Week and an
All-MEAC Rookie (Tiffanie Adair), and a two-time MEAC Defensive Player of the
Week (Tracy King). He also inherited a large and seasoned sophomore class.
Berry, Calvin and Adair all earned preseason All-MEAC selections
last week. The Aggies were picked to
finish fifth in the MEAC by the league's head coaches and sports information
"I use it as motivation for them. I ask them, 'What do you think that means?'"
asked Robinson. "Obviously, we have the most players nominated between the
first and second teams, so why would we be a fifth-place pick? Is it because (former
head coach Patricia Cage-Bibbs) is gone and they understand that there's a
transition, or do they know that you all don't play hard, and that you all,
with that talent, that you all don't always show up? That's motivation for us. Last time I was here, we were always No.
1. Obviously, there's been a change in
powers and we've got to get it back."
The Aggies will work to get that power back on Friday,
facing off against the Cornhuskers, who went 24-9 last season. Nebraska features a pair of 2012 Naismith
Trophy Midseason 32 players in senior point guard Lindsey Moore and junior
forward Jordan Hooper. Moore finished
last season with Big 10 second-team honors, after averaging 15.7 points, 5.1
assists and 2.2 steals per game. Hooper
earned AP All-America honorable mention honors and Big Ten 1st Team honors averaging
18.9 points and 9.3 rebounds a game.
"I think that if we're good enough, if we do those things,
we'll be in the game," Robinson said. "I
think if we do, again, what we work on every day and what we pride ourselves
on, we'll be ok."
Robinson has the luxury of going to a deep bench against the
"I think we're at least eight to nine players deep. I'm confident that anytime that I can sub
people in for certain individuals. We
have versatility," he said. "Being
versatile is important, and I think it gives us an edge going into games."
Robinson has seen great strides in his team so far, and
growth from their two preseason scrimmages against UNC Greensboro and East
Carolina. He's preached defense to his
team all preseason, and was able to see that the lessons are being learned.
"I think in the two scrimmages, they saw that it works. With a new staff and new philosophies, when
they go against opponents , seeing that
it's successful [is important] because then they'll be more confident in what
we're teaching and what we're saying, and then they'll do it harder," he
said. "I expect us to be in tip-top
shape and ready to roll around conference time.
I think we're moving in the right direction. Right now it's a matter of
building the right consistency."