PIPPA PASSES - The 2012-13 edition of the Alice Lloyd College women’s basketball team opened its latest season on November 2 and head coach John Mills is excited about the potential of his latest squad.
“I really like the personnel we have this year,” Mills said. “We have multiple players who can do multiple things, and we should be much harder to defend this season.”
The team performed well in its two exhibition games, and since that point, has gone on to notch two wins against Martin Methodist (in the Union Classic) and Kentucky Christian University.
The Eagles’ roster features no seniors. It consists of several juniors with big-game experience and several quality sophomores who garnered major minutes last season. Throw in a couple of skilled transfers and some plucky freshmen and you can see why Mills is excited to open play.
The key returner is Ariel Nickell. Last season, the 5-9 junior forward from Tazewell, Tenn. averaged 22.4 points per game. Her scoring average was good enough for fourth nationally. She also ranked 15th nationally in rebounds averaged per game (9.5). For good measure, Nickell was 18th in total steals with 80 and 25th in steals per game (2.5). She also led her club with 18 blocks. For her efforts, she was named Second Team All-American by the NAIA and First Team All-American by the USCAA. Furthermore, she was also selected both KIAC Player of the Year and KIAC Female Athlete of the Year (a first for Alice Lloyd College).
Nickell claimed the KIAC Female Athlete of the Year award.
“It was a real honor,” Nickell said. “I didn’t even know I was in the running. It shocked me. In my opinion, though, that award went to my whole team and Coach Mills. I couldn’t have gotten it without them.”
With such an impressive list of awards and accolades, one can understand why Nickell could be feeling some pressure this season. But the Lady Eagles’ leader is not worried.
“Last season, I was the primary scorer, but now, we’ve added several players to our team who can put up points. That takes ten pounds off my shoulders. We’re all hungry to win!”
Alongside Nickell are her fellow juniors Courtney Crowder (Harrogate, Tenn.) and rugged Laiken Gilliam (Church Hill, Tenn.), who are expected to provide valuable experience and leadership.
A trio of sophomores, Chelsea Brown (Frankfort), Hayley Smith (Corbin) and Carla McDaniel (Sneedville, Tenn.), provided big minutes last season and have all improved their games over the off-season. Smith has blossomed into an athletic shot blocker, and McDaniel is, in Nickell’s words, “a rebounding machine.” Classmate Lacinda Hack (Frankfort) was a bright spot as well and also will be counted on for heady play.
Two transfers, sophomores Carla Booth (Warfield) and JJ Hickson (Lake City, Tenn.), have blended in well and are both loaded with ability. Each is expected to strengthen the backcourt with their exciting guard play. Hickson is already turning heads with stellar shooting from three-point range, and Booth provides the Lady Eagles with the steadiness and consistency they need at the point guard position.
Booth was quickly becoming a star guard at Eastern Kentucky University when she opted to leave Richmond for Pippa Passes.
“When I got to ALC, I automatically felt comfortable,” Booth said. “I’d rather play in the Mountains, anyway. And Coach Mills is awesome. He’s the best coach I’ve ever had.”
Other newcomers that have Coach Mills excited about the future include Kiana Hall (Hi Hat), Megan Jones (Paintsville), Serena Nickell (Tazewell, Tenn.), Sophia Shearer (Berea), Kayla Stambaugh (Jenkins) and Courtney Stiltner (Tolsia, W.Va.).
Mills expects his team to make strides throughout the 2012-13 season.
“We are picked in the preseason in fourth place for the conference and will go through some growing pains early on as we get used to each other,” Mills said. “However, we will be fine once we adapt, and should be highly competitive by season’s end.
“We have the pieces in place to be a high-scoring team on offense as well as an intense squad on the defensive end. In the game of basketball, that usually equals success.”
The Lady Eagles defeated Kentucky Christian University 83-58 on November 6. Alice Lloyd will host Milligan College on Friday at 7 p.m. in a game at the Grady Nutt Athletic Center.