RECAP OF 2014-15 SEASON
The 2014-15 season for N. C. State women's basketball was a rebuilding year after losing through graduation or exhaustion of eligibility WNBA first round draftee and All-ACC First Team member Markeisha Gatling, WNBA draftee and All-ACC Second Team member Kody Burke, super sub Lakeesa Daniel, starter Myisha Goodwin-Coleman, Breezy Williams and Julianna Prim.
Due to the loss of the six-five Gatling, the six-four Daniel and the six-two Burke, State in 2014-15 was not only without experience at the four and five positions, but without height. Due to an early ankle injury, six-five 2014 freshwoman Akela Maize was unable to provide backup to starting center and junior college transfer playing her first year in the ACC, six-one junior Carlee Schuhmacher. As such, backing Carlee at center was six-one freshman Chelsea Nelson. At the four position, sophomore Jennifer Mathurin and junior Ashley Eli provided the most minutes. State was undersized and inexperienced relying on guards five-five senior Len'Nique Brown-Hoskins, five-eight sophomore Miah Spencer, five-eight redshirt sophomore Dominique Wilson and five-nine senior Krystal Barrett. Two of Brown-Hoskins, Spencer, or Wilson had to have outstanding games in order for State to win.
Despite being undersized, inexperienced and losing Barrett and Eli to season ending knee injuries, Coach Moore and his staff did an excellent coaching job. Late in the season, State moved to the "on the bubble" status for the NCAA tournament with a win over 18-8 (8-5 conference) Miami and a Hoops for Hope win over number 10 Duke. After the Duke win, State was 16-11 overall and 7-7 in the conference with upcoming games against highly ranked Florida State and Notre Dame. A win in any game would have helped in State's bid for the NCAA tournament. Did not happen. Both of those games were difficult to win, but losing to a bad Boston College team on the road and to a beatable Pitt team at home did not help State leading to State finishing tenth in the conference and playing Virginia Tech in the first round of the ACC tournament.
While State lost to VaTech on a final seconds three point shot by Tech's Hannah Young after State's Miah Spencer gave State a 56-55 lead on an "and one" circus shot with 15 seconds left, there was no reason to fret. State playing all games on the road in the WNIT, went 2 and 1 defeating East Tennessee State University 73-58, East Carolina 69-65 and losing to Temple 80-79 on a last second wild bank shot by Feyonda Fitzgerald. Ashley Williams, in defending Fitzgerald, forced her into a contested shot from just below the foul line, a shot normally meant not to be a bank shot; however, the shot banked hard off the board and through the basket. What is the saying? Sometimes one gets the bear, and sometimes the bear gets one.
OUTLOOK FOR 2015-16
In 2015-16, State is neither going to be inexperienced nor undersized. While both the Head Coaches and the Blue Ribbon Panel pick State to finish 9th in the conference with a State player being on neither the Preseason All-ACC team nor the Newcomer Watch List, it is not unreasonable to think that State can jump all or some of Virginia, North Carolina (lost to transfer all of their number one rated 2014 class), Miami, or Syracuse to finish 5th or 6th in the conference. In the least, State should be a "bubble team" for the NCAA tournament for the majority of the season. State is not going to jump Notre Dame, FSU, Louisville or Duke. All of these schools are too entrenched with experienced talent.
This is Miah Spencer's team, just like it was last year. Two guards who will start absent some unforeseen anomaly are Miah Spencer and Dominique Wilson. Both of these five-eight guards are juniors and both are not only ACC caliber players, but players who have a chance to change that preseason All-ACC team by making the final season All-ACC team.
Another player who is more likely to start at the four position than not is Jennifer Mathurin. Jennifer has outstanding quickness enabling her at six-one to drive to the basket from beyond the arc and to be the best rebounder on the 2014-15 team at 5.4 rebounds per game. Jennifer shot 315 from the arc last season which is not bad for a number four. As stated in the past, what separates a good player and an outstanding player in the women's game is the ability to drive inside the arc and hit medium ranged jump shots. Jennifer hopefully has worked on this part of her game over the summer so as to give the team this kind of shooting, something that Kody Burke was able to do. Look for six-one sophomore Chelsea Nelson, five-eleven junior Ashley Eli, six-two freshwoman Lena Niang and six-one freshwoman DD Rogers to compete for playing time at the four.
With a year in the ACC completed and much improvement over the course of that year, the six-one Carlee Schuhmacher (a former Division II Junior College All-American) should start at center, at least at the start of the season. Look for Carlee to be pushed by six-three freshwoman Nae Nae Cole, six-five sophomore Akela Maize and six-five redshirt freshwoman (unable to play as a freshwoman due to NCAA not clearing her) Sara Boric. What last year could have been if Akela had not injured her ankle early in the season and Sara had been cleared to play?
The biggest battle for starter should be at the three guard/wing position. Could walk on Ashley Williams retain the starting job she had at the end of last season? Ashley shot 384 from the arc last season, was State's most accurate three point shooter with at least 20 attempts, was State's second most accurate shooter last season at 425 and shot 6-9 from the arc against Wake Forest at Reynolds. Ashley was also on the ACC All-Academic Team.
State has a number of really outstanding freshwomen who will compete for starter at the aforementioned wing/guard position. They include five-nine Camille Anderson, five-eight Kaila Ealey and six-foot Amber Richardson. If State wanted to go bigger, six-one freshwoman DD Rogers, six-two freshwoman Lena Niang and six-one Chelsea Nelson could move to the wing position.
With an influx of talent and size and the rule changes, 2015-16 is going to be a very exciting year for State women's basketball. It better be.