By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
In J.J. Oliver’s first season as coach of the Bluefield State College the Lady Blues won three games. That was three times as many as they won the year before. Last season, the Lady Blues doubled their win total from the previous season with seven. Oliver likes the trend and with his largest group of players he’s had since he came to BSC, he is ready to run with the big dogs in the WVIAC.
“I think we’ve got young ladies who really want to be here and who can help us steadily grow as we increase he building project that we are doing,” Oliver commented. “Each year that I’ve been here we’ve gone from tripling the win total, to doubling the win total. If we keep on that path we can’t help but get to the conference championship.”
Similar to the men’s program at Bluefield State, the women’s team had also suffered through a period with few players, this year’s roster is full of returning players, a couple of freshmen and some junior college transfers that will allow Oliver to fully implement his style of coaching.
“I really expect for us to be a team that’s going to be much more athletic than we were last year and able to press up on defense a little bit more than we did last year,” Oliver said. “That’s my style, but I haven’t been able to do it with the personnel that we’ve had the last couple of years.”
Returning for the Lady Blues are the top three scorers from the 2011-12 squad, Charlene Diggs, Dragana Tomic and Shea Mebane. Also back is the second leading rebounder, Kelli Morgan, and Shay Gravely and Tasia Nolan who both had considerable playing time. Tiffany Moorer returns after playing a portion of last season and Oliver is pleased with those experienced players.
Freshmen Tori Patrick from Westside High School and Ashley Reid of Reisterstown, Maryland’s, Franklin High School, are the only players fresh out of high school.
From the junior college ranks Charity Harris comes from Denmark Tech, Jenaya Abernathy is from Burlington, N.J. and Champagne Hazel comes in from Fulton Montgomery Community College in New Jersey. Anastasia Smith last played at Cuyahoga Community College and Jessica Polite transferred across town from Bluefield College.
“We’ve got a great group of young ladies who are very versatile and that’s one of the things that we look for in our athletes, being versatile enough to play different positions and get multiple things out of them,” Oliver said.
In addition to added depth, the Lady Blues also have some added height down low which will also allow the team to play Oliver’s style.
“That (added height) allows our guards to be a little bit more aggressive, knowing that if they get beat, then we’ve got somebody who can help them out back there,” Oliver noted. “I’ve always been a coach that likes to play inside-out, so having people in the paint who can get it done is going to be a great difference for me and a welcome change.”
The Lady Blues are scheduled to play at WVU Tech tonight in an exhibition, and another tune up against Bluefield College on Nov. 7. Regular season play begins Nov. 20 with a WVIAC game at Pitt-Johnstown. Oliver knows there is a tough road ahead.
“Our conference schedule is ultra competitive,” Oliver said. “Beyond that we’ve got our Herb Sims Classic where we’ve got (WVU) Tech, Salem International and Winston-Salem State. We’ve got Division I Liberty University in December, so we’ve got a very ambitious schedule and one that we think is going to be very competitive and prepare us for where we eventually want to be, in the NCAA tournament.”
— Contact Bob Redd at email@example.com