GREENVILLE, N.C. – The ECU women’s basketball team held its first team practice of the 2020-21 season Wednesday afternoon inside Minges Coliseum. It is the first official practice for the Pirates since finishing the 2019-20 season in the AAC Championship First Round.
“It’s been seven months (since our last game) and you don’t realize how much you love something until it’s gone,” said second-year head coach Kim McNeill. “You miss it when you’re away from it. I think that’s how we’re feeling right now. We’re just excited to be back in the gym, excited to have bodies back on the floor. I told our team, before you know it, November 25 will be here.”
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Pirates will have longer than normal to prepare for the first game of the season, as the NCAA start date has been pushed back from Nov. 10 to Nov. 25.
“I think the whole scenario made us have to change everything we did because the young ladies were gone from basketball and gone from working out for so long that when we finally got them back, you have to be strategic as to how you bring them back in,” McNeill said. “So, you don’t want to go 100 percent, full-go right from the jump. So, we had to be really careful as to how we implemented strength and conditioning, running, and basketball to make sure our bodies hold up. Because when you’ve been away from something so long, your body is like oh my God, what are you doing? We did some different things this year, working a lot more one-on-one with the players one or two days a week. Another day doing small, specialized groups and then doing some team stuff.”
Coming off a 9-21 season, the first under McNeill, the Pirates return 89.3% of their points, 86.5% of their rebounds and 90.2% of their school record-breaking 407 steals. Headlining the 11 returners are senior Lashonda Monk, who was the first ECU player to be named AAC Defensive Player of the Year after breaking the ECU single-season steals record, and AAC All-Freshman Team selection Taniyah Thompson.  Monk is part of an experienced six-player senior class that includes Dominique Claytor, Raven Johnson, Justice Gee, Sierra Dacosta and Ariyana Williams. Tiara Chambers is the team’s lone returning junior and led ECU in blocks last year while sophomores Xianna Josephs, Katerina Tsineke and Ryann Evans all return for their sophomore campaigns after playing major minutes during their rookie seasons.

McNeill has also added four freshmen and Charlotte transfer Maddie Moore to round out the Pirates’ roster.
“There’s people out here that know what they’re doing,” added McNeill. “Last year, everything was so new to everybody. All of the players, they were learning. Now we’ve actually got more than half of the team returning from last year and they understand the foundation of it. We’re still not quite there to where we need to be, but at least they understand what we’re trying to do.”
The Pirates’ full schedule, which will feature 20 conference games for the first time, will be announced at a later date.