With four returning players who combined for 30 points and nearly 20 rebounds a game a year ago and a talented freshman class, new East Central Community College women's head coach LaTaryl Williams is hoping for big things from his Lady Warrior basketball team during the upcoming 2018-19 season.
Williams, a former standout player at both Northwest Mississippi Community College and Ole Miss, officially begins his first season at East Central when the Lady Warriors visit Bishop State Community College in Mobile on Nov. 1. He brings experience to the East Central program as both a player and a coach in the always competitive Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges.
"I'm really looking forward to the season and to coaching this group of young women," said Williams, who spent the past six seasons as the assistant women's coach at Holmes Community College in Goodman. "We have a good mixture of veterans and newcomers and everyone has a chance to play if they do their job and execute our plan."
Among the veterans returning are four players who logged significant playing time last year, including three starters. Forward Diamond Wraggs of Louisville started 15 games last season and averaged 9.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per contest. Sharan Turner, a 5-11 forward from East Ascension High School in Gonzales, La., also returns. She averaged 8.7 points and 6.8 boards a game. Forward Whitney Waters of Heidelberg started 20 games a year ago and averaged 6.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per outing. Also back is guard Feria Mays of Kosciusko and her 3.5 points per game, mostly off the bench.
Williams will have to replace graduated All-State guard Autumn Taylor, who started all 22 games and averaged 10.4 points and a team-leading 6.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists a game. The Lady Warriors' leading scorer from a year ago guard Tamirra Haskin (11.6 points) is also gone.
Filling the gap will be what Williams says is a very talented freshman class.
"Overall, this freshman class has a lot of talent," he noted. "I look for each one of them to make a major contribution."
Among those newcomers are Clarion-Ledger (Jackson) Dandy Dozen guard Jariyah Covington, who averaged 13.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 3 steals a game last year for 6A State Champion Starkville High School, and 6-1 forward/center Kimberly Green from Amanda Elzy High School in Greenwood.
Other freshmen expected to contribute are 6-0 forward Jamaica Almons and guard/forward KeiMoya Walker, who both prepped at Murrah in Jackson, the team Starkville beat in the championship game, and 6-2 forward/center Timia Dora of Louisville.
"Jariyah and Kimberly have had standout preseasons and would probably start if we had a game today," said Williams. "Overall I'm very pleased with our freshmen. Any one of them can have an impact on a game on any given night.
"Our strength will definitely be our depth. I feel confident playing all 14 players if necessary. We will be able to rotate them in and out if we stay injury free to give us the advantage of having fresh legs on the court at most times."
Williams said he will use the depth to bring an up-tempo, pressure style to the 2018-19 Lady Warriors.
"We will apply pressure for 40 minutes to make our opponent feel uncomfortable and not allow them to get set and settle into a rhythm," he said. "We also feel like we'll have a size advantage on most teams we play to allow us to get the ball inside to our post players."
Williams said his team goals this season start with winning every home game.
"If we can win all of our home games then we will be in a position to win the MACJC South Division," he explained. "If we win the South Division, then we would host the MACJC State Tournament, which would be a tremendous accomplishment for our program."
Joining Williams on the bench for his first season in Decatur will be Kristen Sampson, a former MACJC All-Star at Meridian Community College before taking her talents to Mississippi College.
"I love that Kristen played in this league," said Williams about his assistant coach. "She understands the process of junior college basketball and moving on to a four-year school, and she does a great job of relating that to the players. She has experienced success in our league and knows what it takes to be successful on the court and in the classroom, and that's important for these young women."
All home basketball games this season can be heard on WKOZ Cruisin 98.3, or watched via live stream video at www.eccc.edu/eccc-media.
A complete schedule of games can be found at www.ecccathletics.com.
Members of the 2018-19 East Central Community College women's basketball team, and their respective hometowns and high schools, include (front row, from left) freshman forward Makaila Carter, Boutte, La./Hahnville; freshman guard Jariyah Covington, Starkville/Starkville; freshman guard Destini Cathey, Senatobia/Senatobia; assistant coach Kristen Sampson; head coach LaTaryl Williams; freshman guard T'Kasmin Colston, Philadelphia/Philadelphia; sophomore guard Riann McCollum, Milwaukee, Wis./Douglass High, Ga.; and sophomore guard Breanna Riley Gulfport/Biloxi; and (back row, from left) freshman manager Mya Antrice Spivey, Forest/Forest, freshman manager Samaria Lloyd, Pinola/Morton; freshman guard/forward KeiMoya Walker, Jackson/Murrah; sophomore guard Feria Mays, Kosciusko/Kosciusko; sophomore forward Whitney Waters, Heidelberg/Heidelberg; freshman forward/center Kimberly Green, Greenwood/Amanda Elzy; freshman forward/center Timia Dora, Louisville/Louisville; freshman forward Jamaica Almons, Jackson/Murrah; sophomore forward Sharan Turner, Gonzales, La./East Ascension; sophomore forward Diamond Wraggs, Louisville/Louisville; and sophomore manager Jamie Lane, Ridgeland/Ridgeland. (EC Photo)