JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – With the beginning of the 2016-17 women's basketball season just over a week from starting, a two-part series will analyze the Lady Eagles position groups. The first part focuses on the frontcourt with senior forward Kaitlyn Cupples (Clinton, Tenn.).
The forward position needs to replace one player from a season ago, Taylor Peterson. The Mount Juliet, Tenn. native was third on the roster in 2015-16 by averaging 9.2 points per game while averaging 3.6 rebounds per night and 20.7 minutes. In her final two years at Mossy Creek, Peterson started 27 games.
The Lady Eagles return four players from a season ago including junior Jecca Simerly (Talbott, Tenn.) who will return from a torn ACL suffered on Jan. 20. A pair of newcomers enter the fold for coach Mike Mincey.
"I think we have become a lot more diverse," Cupples said. "We have different roles. We are known by living and dying by the three. Our fast and quick forward position and not really a big body. Our guards have the ability to get to the paint more than my freshman year."
Cupples enters the season with 50 starts under her belt and a total of 89 games played averaging 20.8 minutes per night. In her career, the senior is averaging 7.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
With 110 blocks in her first three seasons, the Clinton, Tenn. native is fourth in school history looking to track down Brooke Johnson's 128 for third place.
"I think it's using my strengths to my advantage," Cupples said of her shot-blocking prowess. "Being quicker than some of the other centers and forwards in our league and using that quickness and my jumping ability to help me in the other places that I might lack."
Redshirt-junior Katie Stubblefield (Alcoa, Tenn.), sophomore Mika Wester (Newport, Tenn.) and Simerly are expecting to make a run at the starting lineup this season with a deep group of players in the frontcourt.
"With the talent level being so high this year," Cupples said. "It makes practice a competition so each of us are fighting for that starting five spot because no one is set is stone which makes that very clear that it's anyone's spot. All of us have the talent, it's just all of us putting in the work."
Stubblefield was the first player off of the bench a team-leading 17 times in 2015-16 averaging a career-high 18.6 minutes per night while averaging 7.5 points per game and 3.7 rebounds.
Wester's game is similar to Stubblefield's as a slashing wing player with the ability to knock down a midrange jump shot with consistency. The Western Carolina transfer was an all-state selection where she tallied 1,762 points and a 20.6 points per game scoring average.
Simerly started 40 of her first 47 games in a Carson-Newman uniform before an injury in the first half at 11th-ranked Anderson (S.C.) ended her sophomore campaign abruptly. The Volunteer State native has posted 8.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per night over her career.
Joining Cupples and Simerly as a more traditional post player is junior Abby Tinsley (Charlottesville, Va.). The High Point transfer was the first player off of Mincey's pine seven times, the third-most among C-N players last season while averaging 8.6 minutes per night.
"[The forwards have] a lot more versatility," Cupples said. "Each of us bring something totally different to the able because no one can guard us the same. Mika brings in a very movable, jump shooter. Abby and Jecca are bigger down low. Abby is doing a great job being a really big presence down low. I'm in between so it's all different. In any given game, they are going to have be on their toes when they guard us."
The position previews continue Wednesday with a look at a backcourt that returns one of the two leading scorers in Kailyn Brooks (Lafayette, Tenn.) while looking to replace one of the most prolific C-N players of all time in Tatum Burstrom.
The Lady Eagles begin their season with an exhibition contest at Carmichael Arena against the University of North Carolina Tar Heels on Nov. 2. The start time is set for 6 p.m. with broadcast coverage beginning 15 minutes prior to the opening tip on the Eagle Sports Network's flagship station Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.
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