It's the first week of school and already University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach Wes Moore has picked up a major victory — one that largely landed in his lap.
In a Southern Conference women's basketball bombshell, all-conference forward Ashlen Dewart has left Appalachian State after two seasons and joined her older sister Bailey at UTC.
As a sophomore last season, the 6-foot-3 Ashlen averaged 15.6 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for the Mountaineers. They won the SoCon regular-season title, unseating the Lady Mocs, and she hit a league-high 53.4 percent of her shots.
Despite the personal and team success, Ashlen said UTC was a better fit for her.
"I kind of just felt like this was the best place for me to be," she said Tuesday after playing a pickup game with her new teammates. "I met [the coaches] through Bailey when she was recruited, and I knew they were good people and good coaches.
"In the end I had to do what I thought was best for me and my life, but I am going to miss App and I'll miss my teammates a lot."
A knee injury cut short Bailey's playing career, but she remains in school. Ashlen will have to sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules, and she will have to pay her own way. Moore didn't have a scholarship available for the player he said he voted SoCon player of the year last season.
"She will, essentially, be a walk-on this year," Moore said.
Because Ashlen didn't have a release from Appalachian State, and still didn't as of Tuesday, Moore couldn't discuss anything with her or Bailey until she enrolled at UTC.
After Ashlen began school Monday, the sisters paid a visit to Moore, who was thrilled to see them.
Ashlen's addition should make for some tough practices in the post, where UTC already has 6-2 senior All-SoCon forward Whitney Hood, 6-3 sophomore Faith Dupree, 6-1 sophomore Taylor Hall and 6-2 freshman Ashley Southern, among others.
"Now, all of a sudden, we've got a whole lot of post players," Moore said. "I guess that's a good problem to have."
The transfer news overshadowed Moore's unveiling of UTC's 2011-12 schedule, which features an appearance in the preseason WNIT, followed by a trip to Cancun, as well as nonconference games against Kennesaw State, Belmont and Tennessee.
UTC will face the Lady Vols in Knoxville on Jan. 3, which guarantees that Dupree, a Tennessee transfer, will get to face her old team. As things currently stand, Dupree won't be eligible to play until the end of fall semester.
Moore said UTC again is appealing to the NCAA to have her cleared to play at the start of the season.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...