Oct. 10, 2002
ATLANTA — With three starters and eight letterwinners returning, along with the arrival of a heralded eight-member rookie class, the Georgia Tech women’s basketball team begins pre-season practice at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, with its annual “Midnight Hoops” event in preparation for its 15th season under head coach Agnus Berenato.
“Midnight Hoops” will begin at 10:30 p.m. on Friday at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, with an autograph session with the Yellow Jackets, followed by games for all fans in attendance at 11 p.m. The 2002-03 edition of the Georgia Tech women’s basketball team will be introduced at 11:45 p.m., and the team will scrimmage beginning at 12:01 a.m. Free pizza will be provided for the first 100 fans in attendance.
“For us, practicing at midnight has become a tradition,” said Berenato. “We’ve worked really hard to establish some traditions in our women’s game here at Georgia Tech and this is one of those. The great thing about it is that it’s open to the public, but for our team it is big because we give the players all of their practice gear for the first time and for the freshmen all of a sudden, they truly feel like they’re part of the team. The whole night with the team dinner and everything that goes on a the Coliseum, really starts the team bonding for us and we can go to work for real.”
The Yellow Jackets, who finished the 2001-02 season at 15-14 and made their third-straight post-season appearance with a trip to the WNIT, will look to improve on a tie for fifth and a 7-9 record in the rugged Atlantic Coast Conference. The infusion of a new coaching staff a year ago yielded steady improvement, and the addition of an extremely talented rookie class have raised expectations for the upcoming season.
“This crew has worked so hard in the off-season in both individual workouts and in the weight room,” said Berenato. “We’re anxious to get started with practice and the nice thing is that for our freshmen, they all come from very successful programs to all they know is winning. They’re absorbing everything that we tell them and that’s been great to work with. We’ve made a commitment to do whatever it takes to get to the next level and I think we feel like with such a blend of new talent, we’re already ahead of where we were last year.”
Tech continues pre-season preparation with practices on Saturday and Sunday, before leaving on Monday for a team retreat during the school’s fall break. The Jackets will then begin daily practice on Wednesday. Tech’s first competition against an outside foe will come on Nov. 7, against Premier Players in an exhibition at the Georgia Dome. The Jackets open the season on Nov. 15 at home against Charlotte in the Preseason WNIT.
With half of the 16-player roster being made up of freshmen, Tech will look to its three returning starters to provide leadership. Heading up the list of returnees is senior 6-5 center Sonja Mallory (Bronx, N.Y.), who enjoyed a break-out season in 2002, earning second-team All-ACC honors, while leading the Jackets in scoring (14.1) and rebounding (8.0). She also led the ACC in blocked shots per game (2.0). Joining her in the starting five will be senior guard Nina B?rlin (Katrineholm, Sweden), an honorable mention All-ACC pick a year ago despite missing the team’s final 12 games with a knee injury. After making a full recovery from the injury, B?rlin returns after setting a school record with her 7.9 assist-per-game average a year ago. The third returnee to the starting five will be junior Fallon Stokes (Atlanta, Ga.), who emerged mid-way through the year to make 16 starts and average 10 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
Four other veterans will likely play increased roles for the Jackets in 2002-03, as junior guard Megan Isom (Decatur, Ga.), 6.2 points and 3.1 rebounds; junior guard Alex Stewart (Norcross, Ga.), 7.8 points, 4.1 rebounds in 2001; junior guard Jasmina Pacariz (Stockholm, Sweden), 1.1 points, 1.4 rebounds; and sophomore guard Nefertiti Walker (Riverdale, Ga.), 3.8 points, 1.2 rebounds; all return to the roster this year.
Perhaps one of the biggest stories in the program for 2002-03 is the arrival of an eight-member rookie class that has been rated as the 11th-best class in the nation by the All-Star Girls Report and was also rated as the fifth-best class with three or more players in it.
Heading up the group is 6-3 forward Kasha Terry (Douglasville, Ga.), who has been tabbed as one of the nation’s top-21 impact freshmen for 2003 by womenscollegehoops.com and as one of the 10 freshmen to watch by Women’s Basketball Magazine. Terry was also named to both the WBCA and inaugural McDonald’s High School All-America teams as a senior in high school.
The Jackets will also get immediate help from 5-9 guard Megan Harpring (Duluth, Ga.), who is the younger sister of former Tech men’s standout Matt Harpring and brings with her impressive prep scoring credentials. Tech front line will also get a boost from the addition of 6-1 forward Jessica Williams (Riverdale, Ga.), 6-2 forward April Johnson (Macon, Ga.) and 6-3 center Ashley Guerrant (East Lansing, Mich.). The final scholarship addition to the lineup will be 5-11 guard Mallorie Winn (San Diego, Calif.), who will give the Jackets added depth at both guard positions.
Tech will certainly have one of the bigger teams in its history, with seven players measuring six feet or taller, and will enjoy added depth all over the court.
“Our whole goal this year is to outwork, outhustle and outplay our opponents in every facet of the game, from recruiting, to academics, to small details, to getting in the weight room,” said Berenato. “We’re really dedicated to those goals and we want to go to the NCAA Tournament and I hope that people will come out tomorrow night and see us and want to be at our games throughout the year.”