Kim McNeill provides update on state of ECU women’s basketball
WITN Sports goes one-on-one with the ECU women's basketball head coach
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - The WITN Sports team went one-on-one with head coach Kim McNeill on Thursday to get an update on the state of the ECU women’s basketball program.
WHEN WILL THE ECU ATHLETICS FREEZE WILL BE LIFTED?
“Hopefully Wednesday. We have our fingers crossed. Everybody is going to be re-tested on Monday. It normally takes about 24-36 hours for the results to come back. We were all geared up ready to go on Monday, July 22 (when NCAA-sanctioned workouts begin). So we were really excited about that, then this happened.”
“I think Jon Gilbert and his staff is doing an unbelievable job putting the student-athletes first. When you’re in that position, you’re not going to always make everybody happy, and I know they’ve been getting a lot of criticism here lately, but he’s had to do what he feels is best for the whole program. But they’ve really done a good job of just trying to keep things safe for our student-athletes.”
IS THE ENTIRE ECU WOMEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM BACK IN GREENVILLE?
“We are missing one freshman. Kayla Morris is still back in New York. She had her shoulder surgery back in early June, so she’s cleaning up some doctors appointments. Katerina “Kat” Tsineke is stuck in Greece. Then our transfer, Maddie Moore, from Charlotte won’t be here until the beginning of August. So we have everybody but three people. 12 of our 15 student-athletes.”
WHAT’S IT BEEN LIKE COMMUNICATING WITH KATERINA “KAT” TSINEKE OVER IN GREECE?
“Everybody left here in March thinking we’re going on spring break, we’ll be back in a week, but obviously things happened. So originally she went to Tampa with her twin sister who goes to USF, and they stayed there for a while before they decided to go home. She went home and then all of this happened with all of the borders closing. So, we’ve been doing a lot of WhatsUp app. She’s been on Zoom calls with us. We had a Zoom call meeting the other night, and I wasn’t thinking. Kat’s time zone in Greece is different and it’s three o’clock in the morning over there for her, so she’s whispering to us and everything! But it’s basically how we’ve been communicating with everybody for the last three or four months, through technology.”
HOW FREQUENTLY DO YOU STAY IN TOUCH WITH YOUR TEAM?
“Before they started coming back to campus. The first group came back on June 15, we were doing a lot of Zoom calls, a lot of FaceTime, just checking in. It’s one thing to hear their voice over the phone but another thing to see their faces. We did a lot of exercises just on leadership. Watching different movies, reading different books and then coming together and talking about it. With all the things going on in our communities, we had a lot of discussions about that. So it’s been different, not only communicating with the team that way, but with recruits, as well. So, recruiting has definitely been very, very different these last three or four months.”
HOW HAS RECRUITING CHANGED DURING THIS PANDEMIC?
“We’ve actually had a lot of success these last three to four months. We had six scholarships going into this 2021 class, and we have five commitments, so I think that’s pretty good. It’s just different. I think kids are a little nervous that they may not have AAU season was taking away from them, not sure if they’re going to have a high school season, so I think you see some kids jumping on some things. You see some offers being put out there that you’re like, ‘Hmmm, is that worthy?' So it’ll be interesting in another year or two to watch that transfer portal to see what COVID-19 did to the world of recruiting and how it’s going to affect it in either a positive or negative way.”
ANY POSITIVES FROM COMMUNICATING VIRTUALLY WITH YOUR STAFF AND PLAYERS?
“In some ways. I just think what we’re dealing with as a country, as a community has brought us together. As a team in general we’ve gone through a lot this year. We’ve had two of our young ladies lose their fathers. I had a death in my family. Now dealing with COVID-19. Being unsure of everything has brought us closer together and understanding that our actions more now than ever not only affects us but affects everyone around us. The other day, we did a TicTok where we talked about wearing our masks. I talk to them everyday about us being safe and the sacrifices that we’re going to have to make. I think just the sacrifices the country is going to have to make in order for us to get back to some form of normalcy and to get college athletics even pro sports back going because I think that has a big impact on us as human beings. We need sports. It’s an outlet for everyone. So we just want to do our part to make sure we’re staying safe and keeping others safe.”
WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING A BLACK FEMALE HEAD COACH DURING THESE TURBULENT SOCIAL TIMES?
“You know, Tyler, we talk about it all the time. It’s a part of our daily conversations. As a black female and the leader for these young ladies, yes I’m competitive, yes I want to win championships, but even more so, I want to prepare them for the real world. And so we talk about our struggles. We talk about the struggles we have now and the struggles they will continue to see. How can we get over that? How can we get ourselves better? So, when all of these things started to happen, we had these conversations every day. So, we continue to have them. We’re going to continue to do things with the athletes, and not only with women’s basketball but with the other athletes, as well. But that’s a part of our daily conversations.”
DO YOU HAVE A HEALTH UPDATE ON YOUR TEAM?
“Right now we’re pretty healthy. Everybody is cleared to go, but we are still holding some people back because we have so much time we can do that now to make sure that they’re really, really strong. These ladies really haven’t done anything since our last game. When they were at home some of them didn’t have access to gyms, didn’t have access to weights or shooting or anything. Some of them did a little bit of conditioning. But when we brought them back in June, we knew we needed to get them back in shape and that we needed to get them stronger. So even if the NCAA would have allowed us to start working out with them, we weren’t going to for the first two weeks, because sometimes when kids come back out of shape, that’s when you can create injuries. So for the first two weeks we were going to get them stronger, get them back in shape because that’s a long time without doing anything. So we had five players come back June 15th. So they went through the protocols of getting tested and getting cleared. It’s a one-week process. So the following Monday, they were released to workout. So they can work out voluntarily with our strength and conditioning coach.”
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE NEW FACES ON THE TEAM?
“I’m excited. You’re going to have a lot of new bodies out there. Some of them were on the bench last year. Sierra DaCosta. Raven Johnson only played in four games. Justice Gee didn’t play at all, so those are three kids along with the four incoming freshman that we have, so seven new kids. So we are extremely excited about going into the year. As far as the freshman go, we have Alexsia Rose from Connecticut, who will be a combo point guard for us, which will be really good for Lashonda Monk, so that Monk can come and sit down a little bit and not have to play 40 minutes a game. Rose is a very competitive young lady and can score at all three levels. Morgan Moseley is a young lady from Maryland. She’s about 6-foot, very versatile lefty who shoot it, can get to the rim, rebounds, plays very hard. And then we have Synia Johnson, who probably should be a track star, she’s so fast. She fits into our defensive scheme perfectly. Very, very good in transition. Can knock down a three. Just a really good all around player. And then we have Kayla Morris, who like I said had shoulder surgery, but she’s going to give us some size, about 6-2, very versatile, can shoot the three, get to the hole, can post you up. So a very versatile group that can do a lot of different things. Trying our best not to miss a beat. It’s just the world is different. We all have to adjust because I think it’s going to be like this for a while, but life goes on and we have to continue to move forward.”
DOES IT HELP THAT YOUR ASSISTANT COACH IS ALSO YOUR HUSBAND?
“I say all the time, I wouldn’t be where I am now without Cory. He’s my right-hand man on the court, in the office and definitely at home. But we do Zoom calls and we use separate computers. So he’s in one room and I’m in the other room, and our recruits are like, ‘I thought you guys were married!' But we do try to separate too, as much as we can. But I don’t know what I would do without him.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE POSSIBILITY OF NEXT SEASON?
“I don’t know. You hear something different every day. We may get pushed. We may only play conference. I just think it all depends if we can get a handle. I thought everybody was feeling pretty positive about football season, and then all of a sudden numbers start to rise again and and everybody is pretty skeptical of that. But I think things are just changing on a daily basis.”
WHY DID YOU HIRE BRITTANY MORRIS AS NEW ASSISTANT COACH?
“Cory and I have known Brittany for a very long time, her family. I’ve always watched her as a head coach. You never want your staff to leave but obviously you know you can’t keep them forever. So you always keep a few names in your back pocket. And when I’m on the road, I always watch the young assistant coaches and just see how they operate, how they carry themselves and Brittany has always been someone who has stood out to me. Just an extremely hard worker. Just very focused. Knows all the recruits. Did a very good job at UNC Wilmington there recruiting. I wanted someone that had North Carolina, regional ties and so Brittany was the first person who came to mind, and I knew from the start that’s who I wanted to be a part of our family.”
WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH UNC CHARLOTTE TRANSFER MADDIE MOORE?
“Maddie Moore is a transfer from UNC Charlotte. Cory and I tried our best to get her to come to Hartford when we were at Hartford. But obviously, UNC Charlotte was a better program, and she wanted to stay closer to home. But she fits us to a ‘T’ just a very versatile kid who at one point was 5-6 and grew 7 or 8 inches in one year. So she was brought up to be a guard and all of a sudden had this growth spurt, and now she’s 6-3. So, she’s 6-3 but has guard skills and that fits us to the ‘T’ so we’re extremely excited to had her to our team. We’ve never really had a lot of size, because a lot of size doesn’t fit the way we play, but she’s definitely going to be a great fit for us not next year but the year after because she has to sit out one year per NCAA rules.”
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