NCCU women winless, but Taylor hire has arrow pointing up
North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell believes N.C. Central athletic director Ingrid Wicker-McCree hired a quality coach in Vanessa Taylor, whose Lady Eagles fell to 0-11 after a 49-29 loss to the No. 19 Tar Heels Wednesday.
Taylor just needs time to bring in more solid players, Hatchell said.
Taylor was hired in April to replace Joli Robinson, whose contract was not renewed after NCCU went 3-27 last season.
The season is young, but eleven straight losses any time of the year can take a toll, Taylor said.
“It feels bad. It hurts. But you stay focused on the goal,” Taylor said.
Because of injuries, NCCU has eight players on its active roster, which was reduced to seven against UNC because Montreshia Perry was ill.
The lack of bodies has resulted in big chunks of playing time for three of NCCU’s freshmen, including Tisha Dixon, who has started every game this season and against UNC grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds to go with eight points.
Dixon, obviously, wasn’t around last season when NCCU finished at the bottom of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, but she said the 0-11 start to her college career is pretty bad.
“We talk about it,” Dixon said. “We just talk about going hard every time in each game.”
NCCU freshman point guard Amber Neely has been good for the Lady Eagles, bringing an aggressive swagger when she has the ball in her hands.
Taylor must find some more Neelys and Dixons, Hatchell suggested.
“They need players. They’ve just got to go get some players,” Hatchell said. “They’ve got two or three good players, but they just need some players and some depth, and everything. That’s just not something that’s going to happen overnight.”
Taylor said playing UNC was good exposure for NCCU’s basketball program, because it was an opportunity to generate interest among those would-be Lady Eagles that Hatchell talked about.
Taylor came to NCCU from the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association’s Johnson C. Smith, where she became the school’s most successful women’s basketball coach with a record of 215-112 that gave her a career record of 298-207.
Hatchell said she knows Taylor is a good coach from having witnessed her Johnson C. Smith teams go against Shaw, where Hatchell’s husband, Carl, is the associate head coach.
“She just needs some time,” Hatchell said about Taylor. “She’s got a great staff.”
That staff includes aide Ed Geth, who was on the UNC men’s team that won the national title in 1993. Geth played pro ball overseas, was an assistant coach for Marshall’s women’s program and used to coach boys’ and girls’ basketball at Southern High School.
Fellow aide Kendra Eaton played at Western Carolina under Kellie Harper, now head coach at N.C. State. Eaton used to be the coordinator of women’s basketball operations at Wake Forest.
Taylor swears by associate head coach Ronnie Enoch, who earlier this season had the Lady Eagles putting up shots during halftime of an NCCU men’s game, always looking for opportunities to get his players some extra work.
During games, Enoch sits in the first chair on the bench. Taylor lauds his skill as a recruiter.
Enoch’s ability to get quality players to join the Lady Eagles would go a long way toward Taylor’s team turning a corner, Hatchell said.
“She’ll do an excellent job once she gets something to work with in there,” Hatchell said.
Jori Nwachukwu, who was a dynamite player for the Lady Eagles, is a graduate student manager on Taylor’s staff.
Hatchell said she has an idea of what Taylor is dealing with in terms of having a limited number of bodies on her roster. There was a period last season when UNC had to figure things out with six players.
“Whenever you get low in numbers like that, you just can’t do a whole lot of stuff,” Hatchell said.
Taylor said she has explained to her players that they are pioneers blazing new trails for the basketball program. While there’s a goose egg in the win column, Dixon’s 12 rebounds against a team like UNC, for example, is a small victory worth celebrating, since the Tar Heels tend to hurt teams with their second-chance opportunities, Taylor said.
NCCU’s first-year coach offered a story she heard about how dinner doesn’t come in the morning but at, well, dinnertime, after breakfast, lunch and some snacks in between.
Success for the Lady Eagles will require a process similar to that, she said.
“That’s the way we’re approaching this season,” Taylor said. “We understood when we started this venture that we could not have our dinner in the morning.”
NOTES—NCCU gets another shot at its first win of the season against Winthrop at home in McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium at 4 p.m. Saturday.