by Mike Potter
BACKYARD BISTRO/RALEIGH Wes Moore doesn’t want to waste any time as he gets his N.C. State women’s basketball team ready for his first season at the helm.
The Wolfpack’s still-new slogan is “This Is Our State,” and to make that point in women’s basketball they still have a high hill to climb.
Duke is probably going to be ranked No. 2 nationally to start the season, while UNC has a Hall of Fame coach and boasts the nation’s top-rated incoming recruiting class.
The Wolfpack went 17-17 and was knocked out in the second round of the WNIT in Kellie Harper’s final season at the helm, and has made one trip to the NCAA Tournament in the last six seasons.
Athletic director Debbie Yow hired Moore — at 558-169 the eighth winningest active coach in women’s college basketball — to fix that.
“As a whole our conditioning is pretty good, but we do have a couple of concerns,” Moore said. “We’ve got to make sure the seniors buy in and want to make it a special year and go out with a ‘blaze of glory’ so to speak. But we’ll find out. …
“I think they’re excited. They think they want a ‘disciplinarian’ and that sort of thing. It’s kind of like cough medicine; it’s not real good going down but hopefully it works and makes you feel better. I grew up in Dallas, Texas and I’m a big Cowboys fan, and Tom Landry once said his definition of a coach is someone that gets a group of people to do something they don’t want to do so they can accomplish what they want to accomplish. Hopefully they want to accomplish a lot.”
“I don’t care what anybody says - the ACC is going to be the best women’s basketball conference in the country, and now with the people you’re adding over the next couple of years (Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse on July 1 and Louisville the next year to replace departing Maryland) it’s brutal,” he said. “You’ve got to want to compete at the highest level and realize that every night out it’s going to be a war.
“This team needs some toughness. They’ve shown flashes and played some of the top teams in the conference very close. The rebounding aspect is important, but there’s also the mental toughness of when you get knocked down you’ve got to get back up. Don’t feel sorry for yourself — get up and make the next play and move on.”
He said the Wolfpack will count on collective leadership from the senior class — post players Kody Burke, Markeisha Gatling and Lakeesa Daniel along with Myisha Goodwin-Coleman and Breezy Williams on the perimeter — to replace what was lost with the graduation of Marissa Kastanek. Kastanek and Burke were both academic All-Americans last season.
“It’s going to have to come from the senior class,” he said. “We’ve got five seniors that could all play a pretty big role, and you’ve got to hope that those kids take it on. When I left Reynolds just now Kody Burke was in there, and I’ve been in there late at night and some of them were working. I think they want to taste success and finish their careers in a positive way, and I hope they’ll be the first step in bringing this program back where we want it.
“Kody is a great young lady and a great student athlete, and … I think there is a correlation there when you step on the court.”
Moore said he prefers to run a man-to-man-type defense, as well as a ‘four out, one in’ offense in the half-court set — hopefully with a quartet of 3-point threats outside the paint.
“I think we’ve got pretty good athletes on our team, so that might lead to some offense, hopefully,” he said. “(We want to) kind of make the defense pick their poison. We’ll be counting on Gatling inside to be more of a scorer for us. If they play her one-on-one we think she can be very effective, and if they decide to help or double then we’ll look for the open shot.”