- Akilah Stroman
Coastal women's basketball looks to make a statement this season
Finishing 17-14 overall and 10-8 in conference and making it the Sun Belt Quarterfinals, the Coastal Carolina women’s basketball team looks to improve off such a strong season. Ahead of the 2018-2019 season junior center Naheria Hamilton was named to the Preseason All Sun Belt second team.
Looking to start preseason off strong, the Chants were set back due to Hurricane Florence. The school officially evacuated Sept. 11 and the students did not return until Oct. 1. With campus under evacuation and Horry County under mandatory evacuation, the team missed out on two weeks of preseason ball, but with a determined coach they were not away from the court much longer.
After the evacuation orders for Horry County and Myrtle Beach were lifted, head coach Jaida Williams stepped in, called her team and got them all a house on the beach and they were able to practice at the Myrtle Beach Sports Complex until campus was open.
Being evacuated for two weeks was a lot but they were able to make the best of the situation.
“I think [being evacuated for two weeks and not being able to practice on our own court] throws us out of rhythm a little bit with the beginning of our first official practice being on Tuesday, however our girls are resilient, and they have adapted and practiced extremely well since we’ve been back,” Williams said.
The team stayed focused and worked on improving.
“The focus was to continue to get better. I know everyone worked hard on individually improving their skill set as well as getting their strength and conditioning up,” Williams said. “This is probably the best group I’ve had in terms of holding each other accountable and getting better in the off season because it showed when they showed up to campus”
The difference between this years’ team and last years’ is yet to be decided.
“This years’ team is yet to be defined. We had a phenomenal senior leader in Jas Adams, and now we have a team that is young but has experience together so I think who we are is yet to be determined but their work ethic and their team bond is unmatched so I’m excited to see what they do this year,” Williams said.
Coach Williams has high expectations and goals for her team this year.
“Our expectations are to continue to get better. I think we have the talent. We want to play hard every possession and working hard on defense and connecting on offense. We just want to make sure the building blocks we built last year are even better this year,” she said.
Senior guard Breelyn Blanding described how things have changed since her freshman year.
“I feel like I’ve gotten better confidence wise and believing in myself. Also, with experience, I’ve gotten better all around,” said Blanding.
Blanding explained what needs to happen in order to get back to the quarterfinals and beyond after the loss they have suffered.
“We need to stay together as a team. Last years’ team did a good job of knowing your role and not going outside of themselves so as long as we stay together and stay locked in, we should be fine,” said Blanding.
Blanding has set high expectations for herself and the team.
“Goals for myself would be keep improving each year and to keep contributing to my team anyway possible. As a team, I want us to get far and ultimately get to and win the conference championship,” said Blanding.
Finishing as the sixth leading rebounder and second leading blocker last season, Hamilton talked about what aspect comes most naturally to her.
“Talking to my team and getting them hype for the games and making sure they know what they are doing and all on the same page,” said Hamilton.
Hamilton was unhappy about being named Sunbelt honorable mention.
“I did not feel too good and I did not appreciate that. I felt like I deserved something better, but it is what it is,” said Hamilton.
But she does plan on making a statement this year and tells fans what they should expect from her this season.
“I’m coming back more powerful. More moves and a faster pace. Expect a double double every game,” said Hamilton.
With the loss of Jas Adams, there are some big shoes to fill but that is no problem to junior guard Dj Williams. Finishing Sun Belt second team after last season, ranking top 10 in six different categories, she is confident in her abilities.
“[I bring] leadership, scoring ability and my willingness to get defensive stops [to the team],” said Dj. “My jump shot has gotten much better. After the offseason, I really got in the gym and started working hard on my jumper, so I can have a great inside and outside game.”
Dj plans on making a statement on the court this season.
“We plan on coming out hard and finishing every game to the very end. We want to finish at the top and this team will be relentless on both ends of the court,” said Dj.
The women’s team is back in action on Nov. 6 against Western Carolina. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. as it is part of a double header with the means where they will host Furman.