JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Tip-off is two weeks away for the Lady Eagles of Carson-Newman. To prepare for the season, this is the first of a two-part series analyzing the position groups for C-N. The first part focuses on the frontcourt with redshirt-senior Katie Stubblefield.
Overall the Lady Eagles saw the graduation of guards Kailyn Brooks and Carly Pippin along with forward Kaitlyn Cupples. The program returns four of its five starters and five of its top six scoring options. Cupples averaged 18 minutes per night in the post and finished her career third on the program's all-time block list with 129.
Of the four players to participate in all 30 games a year ago, three are in the frontcourt including Stubblefield. The Alcoa, Tenn. native has averaged 7.5 points per game in each of the last two years. Despite averaging fewer minutes, the slasher converted 53 percent of her shots from the floor scoring in double figures 12 times.
"I think I have really focused on playing hard," Stubblefield assessed. "Going into the summer I wanted to work out to get bigger. One of my biggest goals is to rebound and try to get in there and do the dirty stuff."
C-N's top returner is first-team All-South Atlantic Conference pick and second-team all-region selection Mika Wester (Newport, Tenn.). The junior became the 11th player in the history of the program to earn an all-region, all-district or All-American honor and the first since Zoriah Williams was a second-team all-region honoree and third-team All-American in 2012.
Wester ended the year ranked 14th in the nation in field goals made with 224 while finishing the season second in the SAC in points per game (18.6), first in free-throw percentage (84.2), sixth in field-goal percentage (48.6) and seventh in shot blocks with 29. Overall, the Western Carolina transfer registered 28 double-figure scoring efforts and had six double-doubles.
"Mika is a phenomenal scorer," Stubblefield evaluated. "She can score in many different ways. She really helps open up the offensive side and let us do a lot of different things. We have a bunch of different scorers but she helps get our offensive game flowing."
Coach Mike Mincey has two true post players, both seniors, in Jecca Simerly (Talbott, Tenn.) and Abby Tinsley (Charlottesville, Va.). After tearing her ACL midway through her sophomore season, Simerly started 28 games averaging 18 minutes as a junior and did not miss a game. With 4.1 rebounds per night, she was third on the roster on the glass. She did foul out 10 times including five of the last nine contests of the season.
Tinsley found a consistent role off of the bench in 2016-17 improving each statistical category from her first campaign on campus. Her minutes expect to increase from the eight she has averaged through her first two years.
"We have two true post players," Stubblefield stated. "Abby and Jecca are strong. They are both phenomenal post players and we are going to expect a lot out of them especially with Cupples being gone. They are going to give us good minutes this year."
One of the Lady Eagles most consistent players, Kayla Newman (Alcoa, Tenn.), has started 46 games over the last two seasons providing versatility. Despite registering 2.6 points per game last year, the redshirt-sophomore was third on the team in steals with 41 and picked up three boards per game.
Rounding out the group is sophomore Tori Griffin (Jefferson City, Tenn.) and redshirt-freshman Chanler Geer (Knoxville, Tenn.). Griffin saw time in 22 games as a rookie providing almost four points per night including two double-digit scoring outputs. Geer missed the entire year after sustaining a knee injury at the end of her senior year in high school.
The final part of the position previews is slated for release on Thursday with a look at the guard position that holds all four of the newcomers for Mincey's unit with junior guard Haris Price.
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