The Claflin University women’s basketball team opens the season Wednesday under new Coach Revonda Whitley.
Whitley previously served as the associate head coach at NCAA Division I and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference member Maryland Eastern Shore.
The former Winthrop University standout said she is appreciative of the opportunity to guide the Lady Panthers' program.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to coach at Claflin University and becoming a part of the winning tradition established by the late Nelson Brownlee,” Whitley said. “Every time I walk into my office, I’m reminded of his success inside the trophy case at the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Physical Education Center.
“I’m looking forward to this season,” Whitley said. “It gives me the opportunity -- like an old coach saying -- mixing your own pot, which means implementing my style of play. I’ve learned a lot over the years, and now it’s time to implement those coaching concepts into my own.
“I’m a competitor at heart and will fight for every call and every inch. I will expect the same kind of competitiveness from our players. We're going to play with a lot of intensity and be aggressive on defense. Offensively, we will open the floor and spread things out, giving our players the freedom to move around and generate points. ”
Whitley inherited seven returning players, three of whom played in 25 of 27 Lady Panther games last season. Claflin finished the 2016-17 season 15-12 overall and 9-6 in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The Lady Panthers advanced to the semifinals of the league tournament, losing to Central State University 57-50.
Senior guard Dominique Williams is the top returnee. She was named to the SIAC Preseason Team as selected by the league’s head coaches and sports information directors.
Williams led Claflin in scoring last season, averaging 8.6 points per outing. She also contributed 3.4 rebounds, 2.2 steals and two assists per game.
The other two players that saw a considerable amount of playing time last season are junior guard Deja Dickens and senior center Jhanice Stokes.
Dickens averaged 3.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.
Stokes averaged 3.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, and added 23 blocked shots.
Also returning for the Lady Panthers are juniors Taija Johnson and Carmen Robinson; sophomores Zaakariah Williams and Essence Barnes-Jordan.
Seniors Ashley Fields and Joy Okeke are both back for the Lady Panthers after a one-year absence.
During the 2015-16 season, Fields averaged seven points and 4.1 rebounds in 23 games, while Okeke, who played in 20 games, tossed in 5.3 points and pulled down 4.6 rebounds per contest.
As for the SIAC, Whitley’s team was selected second behind Benedict College in the East Division. Last season, Benedict won both meetings between the two teams en route to the league championship.
“The best way to describe the upcoming SIAC season for me is new,” Whitley said. “The coaches and players in the league will be new to me just as I will be to them. This is a very tough conference with some outstanding players.
“We're going to break down a lot of film from last season in order to get a feel for teams in the SIAC. Our non-conference schedule will also play an important part in preparing us for conference play.”
Claflin will play a 27-game schedule this season with 13 of its first 15 games away from Orangeburg. The Lady Panthers will open the season on the road against Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association member Livingstone College at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Claflin will make its first home appearance of the season Saturday (Nov. 18) against Florida Tech for its annual homecoming contest. After the home game, the Lady Panthers will take to the road for six straight games.