GREENVILLE, N.C. - Heather Macy makes her official debut as East Carolina women's basketball head coach Friday as the Pirates play host to American University in both teams' season opener at Minges coliseum. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. and the contest is the first in a doubleheader with the men's squad as it begins regular season play against Erskine.
ECU captured a 70-65 win over the Eagles early last season at Bender Arena in Washington, D.C. Kim Gay enjoyed a double-double performance, scoring 18 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. Kelly Smith hit a jumper with 35 seconds left to break a 65-65 deadlock before Crystal Wilson tallied two steals in the final ticks to seal the victory.
The Pirates enjoyed a highly successful season a year ago, winning a program single-season second-best 23 games and reaching the second round of the WNIT before falling to 2006 national champion Maryland. ECU also set new yearly standards in points (2,430), three-point field goals (187) and assists (542).
Macy is no stranger to up-tempo, high-scoring offense. For two of the past three seasons, her Francis Marion teams led the nation in points per game. She is no stranger to a pressing and suffocating style of defense, however, as the Patriots also led the country in steals. Macy's mindset should prove beneficial to an East Carolina team that is used to scoring in bunches, sharing the ball and getting after it on defense and the boards.
On the national scene, the Pirates ranked among the nation's elite in five statistical categories - three-point field goal percentage (12th), field goal percentage (14th), assists per game (19th), scoring offense (37th) and rebound margin (42nd). Individually, now junior Ashley Clarke was named to the All-C-USA Second and All-Defensive Teams while pacing ECU in scoring, assists and steals. She led the league in assists per game and ranked 24th nationally.
Also returning for the Pirates are seniors Kim Gay and Allison Spivey. Gay was selected as the 2009-10 ECU MVP as she was tops on the squad in rebounding, free throw percentage and third in scoring. The forward had a career day at Memphis Feb. 27, setting career highs in points (26), rebounds (12) and three-point field goals made (four). She scored in double figures 16 times while leading East Carolina in rebounding 13 times. Meanwhile, Spivey started all 34 contests and ended up first on the team in three-point field goals and three-point field goal percentage. She also set the ECU single-season record with 63 three-pointers and helped the Pirates rank 12th in the nation in three-point percentage.
East Carolina should get a boost with the comeback of junior guard Crystal Wilson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second half of the road contest at SMU Jan. 23. Before her setback, she was scoring 9.6 points per game while shooting 55 percent from the field, 43 percent from beyond the arc and 75 percent at the free throw line. Wilson had also grabbed 70 rebounds and 37 steals.
Other upperclassman returnees include senior guard Kelly Smith and junior forward Chareya Smith. The former racked up 56 three-point field goals, the fourth-most in a single season in program history, and was fifth on the team in scoring. Chareya Smith, named the squad's most improved player at the end of the season awards banquet, played in all 34 contests and made 12 starts. She matched Wilson's field goal percentage mark and scored in double figures 10 times. The junior was also instrumental in the road victory at Drexel in the first round of the WNIT, scoring a career-high 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the floor to go along with seven rebounds.
A strong sophomore class, which features four guards and a forward, will complement the upperclassman core as it received valuable game experience as last season wore on. Guard Celeste Stewart was awarded playing time in every game and made two starts. She was the top-scoring rookie for ECU with an average of 3.9 points per contest and was third on the squad with 52 assists against 38 turnovers. Additionally, guard Shala Hodges scored a career-best 17 points to lead the Pirates to a 102-64 win over Southern Miss in the first round of the C-USA Tournament as East Carolina broke the single-game tourney scoring record. Forward Ariana Jackson and guard Elaine Morgan will also provide valuable minutes as they combined to play 542 last season.
A pair of talented freshmen, Alana Beroth and Katie Paschal, join the ranks to round out the roster as both were participants in the 2010 North Carolina East-West All-Star Game. Paschal also ended her prep career as the second-leading scorer in North Carolina high school history, dropping in 3,160 points.