The Wolfpacker

November 2013

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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D By Brian Rapp uring a recent preseason practice, new NC State assistant coach Nikki West, who will be working with the Wolfpack's forwards and posts, took senior center Markeisha Gatling aside to impart a brief message. "I told her that we expect her to be a 'black hole' — to go look it up, figure out what it means relative to basketball, come back and tell me," West said. West's moniker aptly describes the philosophy that she and first-year head coach Wes Moore will take when it comes to NC State's game in the paint: whatever goes inside to the Pack's 6-5 post doesn't come out. West, a nine-year assistant and associate head coach to Moore at TennesseeChattanooga, is no stranger to the front lines of basketball. As a four-year starter at Clemson (1996-99), the former Nikki Blassingame earned All-ACC honors for the Tigers while helping them to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances during one of the most successful periods of Tigers basketball. At Chattanooga, she helped develop two-time Southern Conference Players of the Year Alex Anderson (drafted by the WNBA's San Antonio Silver Stars in 2008) and Shanara Hollinquest. "I think the post players may have been a little bigger during my playing days in the ACC," West admitted, "but we had mostly smaller, finesse-type posts at Chattanooga, very similar to what's here now. We had players 5-9, 5-10 playing the four position [power forward] who were successful because of their quickness and ability to shoot the three-point shot. "I really don't have any major concerns about our frontcourt players — yet. That could change by January, and they have a lot of work to do to box out [a focus of Moore's philosophy of allowing opponents just one possession per floor trip]. We can't win letting teams have second and third possessions. We want to outrebound every team we face." On paper, the Pack's board game in 2012‑13 was a strength: NC State's plus-five rebounding margin (averaging 41.5 boards a game to opponents' 36.5) was third-best in the ACC behind Maryland (plus-13.7 rebounds a game) and Duke (plus-7.4). However, much of that positive number was the result of a near record-setting 63-rebound effort in a non-conference win over Longwood last November. In conference games, the Pack's board edge shrank to just 1.2 rebounds a game advantage, with five ACC opponents beating the Pack on the boards — four by double figures. Ba ketball Preview 2013-14 Besides counting on the players to equal or surpass their rebounding numbers of a year ago, a task that should be easier with the return of four of the team's top five rebounders from last season, the new Pack coaching staff will be putting greater emphasis on scoring consistently from the post position. "Markeisha needs to demand the ball more," West said. "She has got to be aggressive and have an offensive mindset. She has all the tools to be one of the most dominant posts in the conference. I think she wants that, but she just hasn't quite figured out how to." she will be seeing more action as a face-up forward than as an underneath banger. "She needs to work on her range so she can knock down the three-point shot consistently," West said. "And she's done that. She's been going back in and shooting on her own after practices and doing cardio because she wants to have a successful senior year." Burke, who is the only player in program history with 50 or more blocked shots in three seasons, will also be a linchpin of the Pack's inside defense, counted on to continue that aspect of her game (without fouling) and remaining one of the team's top offensive rebounders. Journey To The Center Improved Inside Scoring And Better Rebounding Are A Focus Of The New Staff In NC State's first 27 games last year, Gatling reached double figures in scoring just 11 times and led the team in scoring just twice, usually relegating point production to senior forward Kody Burke (the Pack's returning top scorer) or guard Marissa Kastanek. But in the final seven games of the season, the 6-5 Gatling hit double-digit scoring five times, including a seasonbest 21 points (on 10-of-13 shooting) and 10 rebounds against Virginia. Over the last six games of the year, she made a torrid 73.3 percent of her shots while averaging a team-leading 13.8 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, The Pack was 4-2 in those games. "She's a great kid, almost to a fault," Moore said. "You have to have sort of a Jekyll-Hyde mentality when you step on the floor. I don't know if we're ever going to completely change her demeanor, but we're going to try — at least when she's playing." The Defensive Stopper In The Middle Burke, already with 99 games under her belt, will be the Pack's most experienced veteran underneath — though this season Fifth-year senior Lakeesa "Kee" Daniel is expected to see considerably more playing time than the 13 minutes she's averaged per game through a three-year career shortened by injury and early academic struggles. The 6-4 Roanoke Rapids native is being groomed as the primary backup to Gatling in the post, but is coming off arthroscopic surgery on a knee over the summer. "She's probably more of a finesse player, like Kody, but we need her on the block," West said. "If necessary, we need her to be the one-in in our four-out offense. She needs to polish up her post moves to be able to score down there." Kiana Evans and Therany Dunnigan, both upcoming juniors, left the program over the summer (Dunnigan transferred to Akron), leaving 5-11 sophomore Ashley Eli as the lone returning veteran who could swing this year between a wing and inside forward spot. "She'll definitely be smaller than most people we'll see at the four spot," West admitted, "but she's so smart with the ball. Over the final six games of last season, 6-5 senior center Markeisha Gatling averaged a team-best 13.8 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, while making 73.3 percent of her shots. photo by ken martin 80  ■  the wolfpacker 80-82.Women's Frontcourt.indd 80 10/22/13 2:47 PM

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