GREENVILLE, N.C. – The East Carolina women’s basketball team held its first team practice of the 2021-22 season inside the Smith-Williams Center. The Pirates open their season Nov. 9 at defending C-USA Champion Middle Tennessee State.
“Today is technically our first official day of practice, but we’ve been going since the summer,” said head coach Kim McNeill. “I guess the thing that changes is the hours that you’re in (the gym). But I’m really excited about this group. I think we’ve had a really good summer. I think our chemistry is in a really good place right now, we’ve had really good leadership. So, I’m looking forward to the ladies coming out here and having a lot of energy and being very excited about our first official practice.”
The Pirates are coming an 8-14 season that saw them finish as the sixth seed in the AAC and fall to Houston in the AAC Championship Quarterfinals. However, the Pirate roster has a different complexion heading into 2021-22 with seven returning players joined by seven newcomers.
“It’s definitely different this summer for a lot of different reasons,” McNeill said. “One is we do have seven new kids. Two, we were able to do a little bit more together this summer versus last summer due to Covid. I do feel that our chemistry is much better and in a better place than where we were last year. The energy has been at a different level, the consistency has been at a different level. The buy-in has been at a different level. I think it all goes back to their commitment to each other.”
Taniyah Thompson is the returning leading scorer for the Pirates, having averaged 12.0 points and scored 613 points in her first two seasons in Greenville. Synia Johnson, Tiara Chambers and Alexsia Rose are the other returners that averaged at least 10 minutes a year ago. Johnson came on strong down the stretch of her rookie season, including being named to the AAC Weekly Honor Roll on March 1 and was named a team captain for this upcoming season. Chambers finished first on the Pirates and ninth in the AAC in blocked shots with 1.1 per game while Rose had a career-best game in the AAC Championship Quarterfinals, scoring nine points and grabbing six rebounds. Raven Johnson will also return after injuries limited her to just four games since the start of the 2019-20 season. Johnson averaged a career-high 12.5 points and 6.2 rebounds in 2018-19. Xianna Josephs and Morgan Moseley round out the returners
Along with Johnson, transfers Tylar Bennett and Da’Ja Green will serve as team captains this season. Bennett arrives from Clemson where she finished second all-time among Tigers with 170 career rejections. Green spent the first three seasons of her collegiate career at Wofford before playing at Virginia Tech during the 2020-21 season. Green was a multi-time All-SoCon selection while with the Terriers and scored more than 1,000 points in her career. Danae McNeal also transferred from Clemson after playing two seasons with the Tigers while Brittany Franklin spent three seasons at Kansas. Along with the transfers, Paige Lyons, Iycez Adams and Laila Acox will make their collegiate debuts after outstanding prep careers.
“It was weird last year not having anyone in the stands and being able to hear everything,” McNeil finished. “Year three, really looking forward to it. I think we’ve grown a lot since I first got here in 2019. I hope Pirate Nation and the Greenville community will come out and support our program and see how hard our young ladies have been working and watch this product we’re going to put on the floor this year.”
Tickets are now available to purchase either at ECUPirates.com or by calling the box office at 252-737-4500. The Pirates will play 15 games in Minges Coliseum this season, starting with a game against Gardner-Webb on Nov. 15.