UTC Lady Mocs freshmen learning quickly

UTC Lady Mocs freshmen learning quickly

October 30th, 2013 by John Frierson in Sports - College

Lady Mocs guard Whitney Hartlage (5) works on a one-on-one practice drill at the Chattem Practice Facility.

Lady Mocs guard Whitney Hartlage (5) works on...

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team has an unusual mix with six seniors and six freshmen, as well as some players in between. Despite the Lady Mocs' experience disparity, they're all first-year players under new coach Jim Foster.

After about a month of preseason practice, Foster said he has liked what he's seen from the newcomers, who are split equally with three guards and three forwards.

"It's new to everyone, so it's probably different than it would have been [without a new system to learn]," Foster said. "It's probably to the advantage of the freshmen that the seniors are also learning."

What has also worked to the newcomers' advantage has been increased time on the floor because of injuries. Several of UTC's seniors have been out for at least part of the preseason.

"They're ahead of where they should be, probably," Foster said.

The three guards are 5-foot-8 Whitney Hartlage, 5-4 Chelsey Shumpert and 6-0 Moses Johnson. The forwards are 6-2 Jasmine Joyner, Aryanna Gilbert, who is listed at 5-9, and 6-3 former Dade County (Ga.) High School standout Ansley Chilton, who will redshirt this season.

Asked where they have improved the most since the beginning of practice, both Shumpert and Johnson said it was in the mental part of the game.

"I would say my IQ, just knowing the game better," said Johnson, who averaged 21.8 points per game as a senior at Greenforest-McCalep Christian Academy in Atlanta. "Coach has taught us a lot, and I see the game different than I did before."

Shumpert was also a big-time scorer in high school, averaging 24 points a game for Paducah Tilghman High School in Kentucky. She said speed and quickness were her big advantages in high school, but she knows the rest of her game has to develop more for her to be effective at UTC.

"In high school I got away with a lot," she said. "I was just always the fast one. In this league you have to really focus on stopping and starting, and more players are your speed, so you've got to be better.

"Coach is always on me about handling the ball really good, coming off picks really good -- and I really didn't have that in high school."

Johnson and Shumpert said they're really enjoying Foster's up-tempo, free-form style, which suits their skill sets very well.

"I'm the running type, so I love it," Johnson said. "We're just playing ball."

Foster said Joyner, a long and lean post player who can block shots and run the floor, is the most improved player on the team.

"She works really hard and she picks it up quickly," he said. "She can really run the floor, has good hands -- she just gives us another dimension."

UTC hosts Lee University in an exhibition at McKenzie Arena on Monday. The season opener is Nov. 8, when Alabama visits the Roundhouse.

Contact John Frierson at jfrierson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.