Braves are ready to start the season off strong as a team. PN Photo/Mahala Treish.
By Sharonda Wyche
After a seven-month hiatus, the UNC Pembroke Braves Women’s Basketball team is back and preparing for their upcoming season in an exhibition game against High Point at Quebin Center that is set for Tuesday, Nov. 1st.
Last year, the Braves finished 19-10 overall and 17-7 with the fourth ranking spot in Conference Carolinas play. The Braves were ranked seventh in offense and second in defense by the end of the season. As the team looked to bring a Conference Championship back to Pembroke, their fight to the finals was cut short by Emmanuel College 69-67. The team has its eyes set on a championship ring for the upcoming season.
Returning for the Braves, Junior #12 Alcenia Purnell was named to the All-Conference team and teammate Sophomore #11 Zaria Clark was announced with the Freshman of the Year honor last year to end the momentous season. Clark scored a season high 18 pts on Feb. 24, 2022, against North Greenville for the win 68-41. In the 21-22 season Clark averaged 23.9 minutes with 9.1 pts, 1.6 ast, 6.6 reb, and 264 pts for the year. During the season Purnell scored a game-high 25 points on Feb. 28, 2022, in their loss against Emmanuel College. Alongside Clark, Purnell averaged 32.2 minutes with 10 pts, 2.6 ast, 2.8 reb, and 291 pts to end the season. These two players plan to keep the momentum going and reach new milestones into the new season with their accomplishments.
Under Head Coach John Haskins in his 36th season with the Braves, he’s confident that the team will have another outstanding season and is hopeful to go far in the finals. Defense was the strong suit for Haskins’ Braves last season, a similar plan a similar defensive tack for the nearing season. Ranked number two in defense last year, the team must hold the same intensity and more to have that number one defensive spot.
The 2022-23 season brings new faces that will help the team on both sides of the ball this year. Three student-athletes transferred to the team in June and all are eligible to play, Malea Garrison, Kalaya Hall, and Aminata Johnson. All three transfers came from excellent basketball programs that shaped these women into great ball players.
The Braves #15 Malea Garrison is a transfer from Queens University in Charlotte, She is a forward and a Sophomore at UNC Pembroke. Garrison started 15 games and she averaged 24 mins, 5.6 pts, 6.3 reb, and 1.4 stl last year.
Another Queen’s player transferred, guard #23 Kalaya Hall. She averaged 32.5 mins, 19.9 pts, 2.9 reb, and 2.5 ast. Hall started 25 games for Queens and was named to the 3rd team all-conference and was Queens’ MVP.
Aminata Johnson now wears #32 for UNCP. She transferred from Fayetteville State University and is a senior. Johnson is a 6’2 center who started 20 games her junior year at FSU and averaged 29.3 mins, 10.7 pts, 5.8 reb, and 2.1 blk.
“We are very excited to have these three transfers join our program,” said Coach Haskins. “These ladies will add a depth to the Braves bench, it will give this team a particular hunger to be in the running for the finals.”
UNCP Women’s Basketball has had a busy offseason with the new expectations and sealing the three transfers. But the Braves weren’t done yet, three freshmen have signed to the team and are excited to be a part of Brave Nation. “These young ladies have a versatile skill set as outstanding shooters but are very good ball handlers” said Coach Haskins.
The three freshmen are #10 Tamia Morris coming out of Terry Sanford HS with 18.3 pts, 3.7 ast, and 3.3 stl; along with #21 Maya Hood from a City of Medicine Academy with 9.8 pts, 6.5 reb, and 3.0 stl and Jada Coleman from Apex Friendship HS with 9.4 pts, 2 ast, 3.7 reb. These freshmen give the Braves excitement that the season could be favorable for them.
The women’s team hasn’t won a put together for the 2022-23 season, there’s a good chance that the Braves could win it all. The Braves could make some real noise in the Conference Carolina play with a rising trio between players #4 Courtney Smith, #11 Zaria Clark, and #12 Alcenia Purnell. If these players can get hot during the season along with the transfers and freshmen, the Braves could be unstoppable. The Braves future is very bright under the coaching of Coach Haskins and staff. With a young team it may be tough to mesh, but the defensive strategy that Haskins had last season will bond the team together to fight to bring the championship home.
With all the pieces that the Braves have in place combined with harmonic play, they could go 21-8 overall and 20-4 in conference play. The Braves could rank number one in the conference for defense and rank fourth in the offense this season.
[DWN1]Is this the second part of his quote?