N.C. State had a ridiculous run of misfortune last season, a 14-17 campaign in which the Wolfpack lost four one-possession games and lost two key players for most of the season with injuries.
But with another year’s experience all around and a solid recruiting class, the Pack may just be back.
Third-year coach Kellie Harper’s team was on display Thursday for its annual media day at Reynolds Coliseum, and even though State was picked seventh in the ACC’s preseason poll she said she has plenty of reason for optimism.
“Everybody’s excited, because it’s a new year and a fresh start,” Harper said. “I’m anxious and excited and I think I’ve got some pretty good reasons to be right now in their attitude and their toughness. I’m really proud of some of our upperclassmen for working hard to improve over the summer, and I’m really looking forward to seeing our freshmen in a game situation. They’ve been very impressive in practice. Our kids are really soaking everything up and loving basketball right now.”
Senior post Bonae Holston is the top returning scorer (16.3, 8.4 rebs.) followed by junior guard Marissa Kastanek (13.6. 3.5). The Pack did lose a double-figure scorer to graduation in guard Amber White (13.5, 3.9 assts.), but 6-2 sophomore Kody Burke averaged 9.5 and 6.4 and won’t be a rookie any more.
Kastanek was away from the team last week to play for seventh-place Team USA in the PanAm Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
“This team is so dynamic,” Kastanek said. “We have everything from great leadership to great followers to great rebounders to great ballhandlers to great shooters to great passers. I feel like we have every key that needs to be in place to have a great team. We have excited young freshmen and excited, experienced seniors and everywhere in between.”
Tia Bell, a 6-3 senior post who played just three minutes last season before a season-ending injury to her left knee will return, and senior guard Emili Tasler – whom Harper calls her best defensive player – is back after a leg injury that cost her her last 21 games last season.
Sophomore point guard Myisha Goodwin-Coleman was a starter down the stretch last season, and is back along with sophomore wing Breezy Williams, 6-4 sophomore post Lakeesa Daniel, and reserve senior guards Kim Durham and Paige Woodard.
Then there’s the recruiting class, made up of three Texans – 5-11 forward Erica Donovan, 5-9 guard Krystal Barrett and 6-1 forward Kiana Evans – and 6-2 post Therany Dunnigan from Cleveland, Ohio.
Harper said she expects the freshmen to have a huge impact.
“Right now, three of them are going to play substantial minutes early,” Harper said. “(Barrett) was the highest-ranked kid in the four and is really coming along strong. (Evans) is a very underrated post player; her biggest hurdle is conditioning. And the biggest surprise has been Erica Donovan. This kid impresses everybody every single day in practice, and she has the strength of a college athlete.”
State opens its season at home Nov. 11 at noon against Southeast Missouri State after a Nov. 6 exhibition against North Greenville.