The Wolfpacker

November 2015 Issue

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 98 of 155

NOVEMBER 2015 ■ 97 WOLFPACK BASKETBALL PREVIEW 2015-16 BY BRIAN RAPP I n the 41-year history of the NC State women's basketball program, a for- ward or center has led the team in scoring 34 times. In fact, when guard Marissa Kastanek led the Pack in scoring in 2011-12, she was the first backcourt player to do so since Jennifer Howard in 1994. Last year's top two point producers both return — and are both guards. That's a prospect that leaves NC State as- sistant coach Gene Hill smiling a lot these days. Hill, who coaches the Pack's perim- eter players, has had to replace a key guard each of his first two seasons — Kastanek, who graduated the year before Hill arrived on the staff of head coach Wes Moore, and Myisha Goodwin-Coleman, NC State's record-setting three-point scorer who made a single-season-best 79 treys during the team's 25-win season in 2013-14. Despite having lost two more key mem- bers of his backcourt roster from last season — point guard Len'Nique Brown- Hoskin, whose 51 threes were second most on the team, and Krystal Barrett, whose senior year came to an unexpected end after just 12 games due to a career-ending ACL tear — Hill begins the 2015-16 cam- paign with two returning starters, a proven veteran reserve and a vital role player from last year's 18-15 squad. "It's definitely nice to have [junior shooting guard] Miah Spencer returning," Hill said about the Pack's top scorer last year (14.0 points per game). "Sometimes I think about all the things she's done in two years, and I'm amazed she still has two more. She's been that type of player since day one, so we're really excited to have her back. "Then you throw in [redshirt junior] Dominique Wilson [13.8 points per game], and consider that you have her another two years, and that's also pretty exciting. Those two have worked really hard during the offseason, and they've come in accepting the challenge of being team leaders and put helping to get this team back to the NCAA Tournament on their shoulders." With injuries sidelining Barrett and freshman Chloe Jackson last season, Brown-Hoskin, Spencer and Wilson all averaged over 30 minutes a game on the court, a grind that eventually took its toll late in the season when the Pack lost sev- eral games they led late. "To compete for that many games [21 after Barrett's injury] knowing you don't really have that many subs, you can't really get in foul trouble and you need to play through minor injuries," the coach said. "When you think about all that, our top three scorers were all guards. "They really stepped up and scored more because of the inconsistency we had at times inside." Now with four veteran frontcourt return- ers hopefully improving on their contribu- tion to the Pack's four-out, one-in offense, Hill and Moore are both expecting much more balance in the scoring load — though Spencer and Wilson will still be expected to be this year's on-court floor leaders. And with six incoming freshmen, in- cluding three new guards, Hill is hopeful that playing minutes will also be more balanced. "That depth we're seeing in practice, the competition — last year, we didn't have that because of the injuries," he said. "We think the new kids will be able to help us." The biggest question facing the coaching staff is who will take over the point guard spot vacated by Brown-Hoskin. Spencer and Wilson both saw action in that role in spots last season when Brown-Hoskin needed a rare breather (she averaged a team-leading 33.7 minutes per game), but neither is a true point. Moore would rather have Spencer, who's played most of her first two seasons at shooting guard, remain there, with Wilson back at the wing spot. The solution, according to both coaches, could be incoming freshman Kaila Ealy. One of five members of the six-member class of 2015 to earn a McDonald's All- America nomination last year, Ealy has impressed in early practices. "She excels in penetrating and kicking it," Hill said. "She's very quick and has a knack of drawing fouls, and she's a good free-throw shooter. Defensively, she gives us something we haven't had in awhile because she has long arms and cat-quick hands — she'll be someone who can put pressure on some guards, get in passing lanes and create turnovers." "I've been very pleased with her," Moore added. "She's a true point guard whose shot is improving every day. She can pen- etrate, and if people back off her she can make them pay." Ealy, who will be the tallest point guard (5-8) NC State has had in the last four years, also brings one other plus to the Pack: she'll be playing on the same floor she played her entire high school career on, at Broughton High School's Holliday Gymnasium. With renovations closing Reynolds Coliseum until next summer, NC State is playing all but two of its 15 home games this season at Broughton (the other two are at PNC Arena). Should Spencer be needed to run the team from the point, neither Hill nor Moore will be worrying. The 5-8 junior from De- catur, Ga., not only led the Pack in scoring last season, but also in assists (107 total, 3.2 per game) and steals (60, 1.8). "I hear a lot from other coaches, 'We missed out on that one,'" Hill said. "She constantly wants to get better — she won't allow people to put limits on her. "It's burning her up that we missed [the NCAA Tournament] last year, and she's willing to put in the work to help lead this team back there." Wilson, who is actually in her fourth year in college after playing one season at Arkansas and sitting out her transfer year in 2013-14, was expected to be a key re- serve last season. That was before Barrett's season-ending knee injury last December, forcing Moore to start the 5-8 native of Powder Springs, Ga., the remaining 21 games on one of the wings. "She was someone who'd come off the bench and give you instant offense," Hill said. "She really excelled in that role until KB's injury and we were forced to put her in a starting position. I think that affected her game a bit, but she's embraced the role this season. She still needs to improve her focus on defense and rebounding, but she's shooting much better." Wilson's "instant offense" role after she became a starter devolved onto Williams, and the 5-8 junior from Cary's Green Hope High School proved up to the task, finish- ing as the Pack's most accurate three-point Power On The PERIMETER Pack Backcourt Reloads Behind The Return Of Top Two Scorers Junior guard Miah Spencer led the Pack in scoring last season at 14.0 points per game. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN

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