On Thursday’s media day, East Carolina University’s women’s basketball team and head coach Heather Macy discussed how they want to improve chemistry, develop leadership and continue to build on a winning culture for the 2017-18 season.
“One of the great things we’re doing this year is we’re really making it fun,” Macy said. “We've got seven freshmen and sophomores, it's all so new, it's all so fresh and it's really energized. Practices are upbeat, they're spirited, they're focused, they're listening, they're coachable, all great things.”
Macy’s most successful stretch at ECU was 2012-15, during which she earned an overall record of 66-30, while going 32-18 in the American Athletic Conference.
However, last season Macy suffered the worst record of her coaching career with an 11-19, 2-14 AAC record. Last season was a difficult one mostly because it was a one-woman show, led by senior Kristen Gaffney, averaging nearly 15 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the field with rest of the team in rebuilding mode. Now that the team has had a year to develop its talented young core, Macy has a plan to get the team right back to its winning ways.
According to Macy, she has three things that she calls her “hard list” going into every game: what makes the team hard to play against, what is hard for the team to prepare for and what makes the team hard to beat. Macy believes these three things are crucial for focusing on the process of winning.
“We have to be way more process-oriented as we go into the year. We need to be focused on the process of winning instead of just saying ‘did we win or did we lose that basketball game’,” Macy said. “If we do that in November and December, then we will be prepared for the conference schedule.”
One of the burning questions going into is this season is where the leadership is going to come from. The Pirates only have six returning players from last season and only two seniors on the team.
However, junior guard Alex Frazier believes she can step up to the plate and be the leader she needs to be. She credits what she was taught last year from older, more experienced players as to what got her ready for this season.
“It has definitely given me somewhat of a base ground of what I had to go through and what older players taught me,” Frazier said. “It’s just trying to help my younger players, and teaching them what I was taught and what I needed when I was younger.”
Sophomore forward Dominique Claytor thinks the younger players have given the team and locker room a boost of energy that has been refreshening for the players.
“It's been different, a lot of new people, so it was a little different at the beginning, but now that we’re all getting closer, we all hang out. So in the locker room, it’s very alive,” Claytor said. “We talk not even about basketball sometimes, but we ask about plays or anything that we need to know, so we all help each other out. It is very good, on and off the court.”
Returning players such as sophomore guard Raven Johnson and senior center Thais Oliveira have also both echoed how the team is thriving from the boost of energy. Some of the small things in practice, such as diving for loose balls, fighting through screens and boxing out down low to get rebounds, is what will go a long way in practice.
“I think we really thrive off of energy, and doing the dirty work,” Johnson said. “Dirty work as in doing the rebounding and getting tough plays that Coach Macy calls Pirate Plays and getting on the floor. Basically, just being aggressive.”
The Pirates entered their final week of practice before the season gets underway Friday night inside Minges Coliseum against the University of South Carolina Upstate at 8 p.m.