Mountaineer Women Look To Rebuild Next Season
Who knows, this might have been the year for Mike Carey and his West Virginia’s women’s basketball team.
After all, Geno Auriemma’s Connecticut team was beaten by Notre Dame in the national semifinal. Notre Dame? Could it have been West Virginia if Tynice Martin hadn’t broken a foot prior to the season?
Envision a team with Teana Muldrow as the second option behind Martin, with Chania Ray dishing the ball around, with Naomi Davenport providing spark as she grew into a Division 1 player, with Katrina Pardee and Kristina King as role players rather than integral to the offense and rebounding.
It was what Carey had pointed for, what he had recruited for, but the injury to the Big 12’s top returning player, Martin, along with some adjacent injuries that took away depth, killed his season and sent seniors Muldrow, Ray and King to an undistinguished exit that should have been so much better.
In the cloudy finish with a WNIT semifinal loss to Virginia Tech, Mike Carey said goodbye and heaped as much praise on his exiting trio as is humanly possible.
“They are all going to go far. They all have great personalities. Teana is close to having her masters. God love, Teana, she played five years for me. If she can play five years for me that young lady will do well. Nothing will break her down. Proud of our seniors, all of them. You couldn’t ask any more of them. Great young ladies, all,” he said.
But already he’s drooling over what next year can become, beginning with a perimeter game that he says will be unmatched in America.
You read that right.
“I think on the perimeter we’re as good as anyone in the country,” he said.
That’s UConn. That’s Baylor. That’s Notre Dame. That’s Mississippi State. That’s anyone.
Look at it. Martin will return and bring with her an 18 point a game average and an MVP player in last year’s Big 12 Tournament with her. She was the best player in the Big 12 when injured trying out to make Team USA and she figures to return the same.
Then there’s Davenport with her all-around game, a senior next yer and with a full year of Division 1 under her belt to smooth out the rough edges. And there’s Pardee and her long-distance shooting and tireless defense, back for one final season.
And Ashley Jones, who as a freshman spelled Ray, becoming better and better as the season went on to the point that Carey not only had no reservations about using her but got to be using her with Ray, moving Ray to the shooting guard when he took Pardee out.
That would be enough but there’s more. Carey is excited to get the redshirt off Kysre Gondrezick out of a redshirt and into a WVU uniform.
“Kysre can play. I can play her at the 1, 2 or 3. She’s a player. She can score, pass and play,” Carey said, knowing there isn’t much more on offense you can ask out of a single player.
Also on the perimeter Carey has a point guard coming from South Carolina named Madisen Smith.
A 5-5 guard out of Greenville Senior High, Smith was the No. 28 point guard in the 2018 class per HoopGurlz Recruiting Rankings. She went into this season as a two-time Class AAAA All-State honoree after averaging 17.0 points and 6.4 assists per game as a junior in 2017.
Smith earned numerous accolades after helping the Red Raiders to the Region 1-AAAA title in 2016-17, including Greenville News All-Upstate First Team, Region 1-AAAA Player of the Year and All-Greenville County. In addition to Greenville Senior, Smith also plays for GA Metros.
“Madisen’s an athletic, strong point guard. She can really get into the paint, and she can shoot the three. She can defend and really fits in with what we do extremely well here at West Virginia,” Carey said when he recruited her.
And then there’s the front court, which loses Muldrow’s and King’s rebounding, but he has help coming there, too, expecting to get a full year out of 6-5 Ohio State transfer Theresa Ekhelar, who sat out the first semester.
“We have a 6-5 center coming in. We have a 6-4 coming in, too and I’m trying to bring more,” Carey said.
That would be freshman Rochelle Norris, who was rated the 70th-best overall recruit in the country by espnW. She and Ekhelar will likely rotate in the post.
As soon as the season ended, Carey gathered with his assistants and made certain they understood that “recruiting starts now.”
“I’m not going through this again,” he said, referring to being so shorthanded that he had few options. “If someone is not playing hard, they’re sitting. If somebody gets hurt, it’s next one up.”
How good can WVU be? That’s what the exiting Muldrow was asked. Her answer said it all.
“I think the sky is the limit for them next year,” she said. “The limit in that room is through the roof. Naomi, Katrina, Tynice, they will find a way to put it together.”
“I wish we could start right now,” Davenport said. “It’s going to be a dog summer. Everybody is going to get better this summer.”
Thank you to all of the fans who supported us during our WNIT run, as well as everyone who made it out to the Coliseum this season. See you next year! pic.twitter.com/gVkcVBJqDu
— WVU Women’s Basketball (@WVUWBB) March 29, 2018