HARTSVILLE, S.C. – The Coker College women's basketball team will travel to the University of South Carolina to take on the reigning NCAA Division I National Champion Gamecocks on Friday (Nov. 3) at 7 p.m. Following their game with the Gamecocks, the Cobras will have a quick turnaround when they head to UNC-Charlotte to play the 49ers on Saturday (Nov. 4) at 7 p.m.
Head women's basketball coach Shannon Johnson is quite familiar with the University of South Carolina women's basketball program. As a student-athlete, Johnson was an All-American and four-time All-SEC selection at the University of South Carolina. In 1996 she was a finalist for the Wade Trophy, awarded to the best player in NCAA Division I, and she set the record for scoring in a season at South Carolina, averaging 24.7 points per game. She is the only player in South Carolina history to average more than 20 points per game for three consecutive seasons (1994-96). She is second all-time in career points (2,230) and points per game (20.5) at South Carolina and in 2004 her jersey was retired and she was inducted into the University of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame.
"I was fortunate enough to go back to my alma mater and get an exhibition match with the defending national champions," said Johnson. "Then we have a nice little back-to-back game with UNC-Charlotte, so we have two great opportunities to see where our team is right away."
The Cobras present a 17 player roster, made up of 11 returners and six newcomers. Of the 11 returners, the Navy and Gold bring back four starters from last year's squad, including the field goal percentage statistical champion in the South Atlantic Conference last season, Iresha Cooper. Cooper shot a league-high 55.1 percent from the floor last year. Other key returners from last year's squad include Aloni McFarland, Kendra Lambert, Sydney Shull, Caitland Considine, and Elizabeth Kincaid.
However, Coker should have significant contributions from some of their newcomers this season.
"We brought in six players, three freshman and three transfers," said Johnson. "Freshmen Hannah Stull, Laura Ajukwa, and Taiylar DeMoss are three players we feel like will be groomed this year, but can steal some minutes because they are very active, and they make it very competitive in practice for other players."
While the freshman will provide depth for the Cobras, the three transfers could be game-changers on the court in Coker's 2017-18 campaign. The transfers include Janea Williams, Erin Houser, and Hayley Kropp.
Williams, a 6-3 forward/center, transferred in from UNC-Wilmington and is a graduate student.
"We're really excited on what Janea will bring to our team as far as her size, her post presence, her versatility, and getting up and down the court," stated Johnson. "You'll be able to see her put the ball in the hole for us."
Houser, a 6-2 forward, transferred to Coker from North Carolina Central and is a sophomore.
"I'm really excited about what Erin Houser can do," said Johnson. "This young lady can put the ball in the hole. She's going to be able to score points for us on a regular basis and we're looking for her to put the big numbers up."
Kropp, a 5-6 guard, joined the Cobras after spending a year at Guilford Technical Community College. She is in her sophomore year.
"Then we have one of our best shooters heading into the season in Hayley Kropp," stated Johnson. "She is a player who's going to knock it down for us."
The University of South Carolina, a member of the South Eastern Conference, heads into the 2017-18 season after capturing a national title last year with a victory over Mississippi State in the national championship. The Gamecocks finished with a 33-4 overall record last season and return the SEC Player of the Year, A'ja Wilson.
UNC-Charlotte, a member of the Conference USA, enters the 2017-18 season after finishing with a 21-10 record last year. The 49ers return Preseason All-Conference USA selection Nyilah Jamison-Myers.
Live stats for both games will be available at www.cokercobras.com.