Nov. 7, 2003
ATLANTA – The Georgia Tech women’s basketball team will open its first season under head coach MaChelle Joseph when it faces the Premier Players at 7 p.m. on Saturday evening at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
There will be no charge for admission and the game will be broadcast live on the Georgia Tech student station, WREK (91.1 FM).
Georgia Tech returns 12 letterwinners, including four starters from last year’s 20-11 squad. Included in that group are senior guards Nina B?rlin, Megan Isom, Alex Stewart and senior forwards Jasmina Pacariz and preseason all-ACC selection Fallon Stokes.
“We’re really excited that she received that honor because it’s well-deserved,” said Joseph. “I think that Fallon is one of the top three to five players in the league coming back, and we expect great things out of her. I’ve challenged her to go from being a great player to being an elite player, a go-to player, someone that can score 20 points, night-in and night-out. I think that early on in practice, that’s what we’ve seen out of her.”
Stokes was the Jackets’ second-leading scorer a year ago behind graduating senior Sonja Mallory, averaging 15.7 points and 6.5 rebounds while garnering third-team all-ACC honors, while Stewart also earned third-team conference honors, leading the league in assists per game (5.55) and free throw percentage (.851).
B?rlin and redshirt freshman April Johnson will both be playing in their first game since suffering season-ending knee injuries last year. Johnson was averaging over five points through six games before being injured, while B?rlin suffered her injury in the first game of the season.
“I’m really excited Nina and April because they are both making progress; it’s day-to-day, but you can see gradual progress,” Joseph said.
The game will also mark the collegiate debut for the Yellow Jackets’ two freshmen, Stephanie Higgs (Lawrenceville, Ga.) and Kentrina Wilson (Deerfield Beach, Fla.) Higgs was named the Metro Player of the Year for 2003 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution while earning Class 5A first-team all-state honors, and Wilson led Deerfield Beach high to the Florida 6A state title in 2003, earning her first-team Class 6A all-state honors.
“Our two freshmen have really impressed me lately,” said Joseph. “They both have stepped up and they’re challenging the upper-classmen for minutes.”
The Premier Players, which features former Atlantic Coast Conference stars Katelyn Vujas (Florida State) and Juana Brown (North Carolina), as well as former Tar Heel guard Jessica Gaspar, are scheduled to play 12 exhibition games during November against college teams along the East Coast. They won the first two games of their season against Florida International and Miami before losing a close one to Central Florida Tuesday evening, 72-69.
“Basically what we’re looking for this weekend is combinations and really trying to finalize our starting lineup,” said Joseph. “We have four returning starters, but we’ve also had other players that are really stepping up and this game can help us to figure out who will be in there at the beginning of the season.”
The Yellow Jackets will begin the 2003-04 campaign on Nov. 21 in Boca Raton, Fla., as they face Florida Atlantic at 7 p.m. Tech will then participate in the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas at the end of November before returning to Atlanta for its first home game against Davidson on Dec. 2 at 7 p.m.
Tech was predicted to finish fourth in the conference this season in a vote of the Atlantic Coast sports writers at the ACC Women’s Basketball Media Day last week.