N.C. Central women’s basketball has improved each season under third-year head coach Vanessa Taylor.
NCCU finished 2-28 in Taylor’s inaugural year after replacing longtime coach Joli Robinson. The Eagles completed last season 11-19, including a respectable 6-10 in the MEAC. The 11 wins were the most since the 2009-10 season.
Taylor is even more enthusiastic about this season. NCCU has a veteran core group to mix with her best recruiting class to date.
“I’m happy with what we have so far,” said Taylor whose team has been picked to finish 10th in the MEAC. “I think we’re finally putting the pieces together.”
Seniors Rachel Williams, Racquel Davis, and Khyra Conerly supply experienced leadership.
Davis was named to the all-MEAC preseason third team after averaging 13.5 points and 9.1 rebounds a game last season. She and other team members will have to fill in the vacancy left by the team’s top departing scorer, Jessica Freeman (15.8 ppg).
New to Eagleland are freshmen Imani Atkinson (Greensboro), Kierona Morton (Paterson, N.J.) and Maya Jackson (Florence, S.C.)
Jackson was West Florence High’s second-leading scorer and top shot blocker. Morton ended her high school career with a spot in the annual NJSIAA North-South All-Star Basketball Classic. Atkinson averaged 10 points, six rebounds and six steals.
“We are very pleased with our 2018 class,” Taylor said. “We not only signed three players that we feel are going to make an impact to our team, but who fit into our vision here at NCCU.”
Transfers Nikki Works (Temple) and Kristin Askew (Southern Methodist) also will be playing for the first time after sitting out last season.
NCCU opens its season Nov. 14 at Western Carolina.
Chapman turns pro
Former NCCU point guard Emanuel Chapmansigned his first professional contract last week with SKP Banska Bystrica of the Slovakian Basketball League.
Banska Bystrica is Slovakia’s sixth most populous municipality.
“It’s like a breath of fresh air,” Chapman said. “It feels surreal, and I am more than prepared coming from NCCU. I want to thank everybody that had anything to do with this process.”
Chapman finished his career as the university’s all-time leader in assists with 617. He also set the single-season record with 217 last season, when the Eagles finished 28-6 and earned their first berth in the NCAA Tournament at the Division I level.
“It’s an incredible accomplishment for that young man to have an opportunity to take care of his family playing the game that he loves,” NCCU head coach LeVelle Moton said. “He is the heart and soul of NCCU basketball.”