Foster's Mocs will return lots of experience

Foster's Mocs will return lots of experience

March 20th, 2017 by Gene Henley in Sports - College

UTC's Chelsey Shumpert dribbles past Louisville's Sam Fuehring during their NCAA tournament first-round game Saturday. The Mocs lost 82-62, ending their season with a 21-11 record.

Photo by Timothy D. Easley

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team will have a different look next season.

But there will still be a lot of talent on board.

The Mocs, who finished 21-11 after losing 82-62 to Louisville on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA tournament, will return four players with starting experience from the 2016-17 team. The program is still in search of its first tournament victory since 2004, which took place at McKenzie Arena.

With the NCAA regionalizing the first two rounds of the tournament and rewarding the top four seeds in each region, chances are the Mocs will have to go on the road to claim that elusive victory in March. As a result, UTC coach Jim Foster has started scheduling road matchups in some of the toughest environments in the country.

The Mocs played that type of nonconference schedule this season, and the expectation is Foster will have one similar next season.

"We just have to keep working hard," freshman guard Lakelyn Bouldin said after Saturday's game. "Have to give it all you've got day in and day out. We played great teams this year, and we know where we need to be to compete and make a run in the tournament.

"Using this experience will help us."

Although there are expected to be four seniors on the roster next season — fifth-year seniors Ansley Chilton, Aryanna Gilbert and Chelsey Shumpert, plus Keiana Gilbert — the makeup of the roster will look different.

There will be a small line forming of players to replace three-year starting center Jasmine Joyner, who finished her career eighth all-time in NCAA history with 436 blocks while also topping 1,300 points and 900 rebounds. The 6-foot-3 Chilton could get a look, although she is more of a shooter who can stretch defenses. Junior Ashlyn Wert will be in play, as will sophomore Arianne Whitaker — a Winthrop transfer — and incoming freshman Rochelle Lee. All three are 6-4.

Next season's team will be more guard-heavy, though, with Foster hinting at playing three point guards together. Shumpert will return, a year wiser at that position, as will Bouldin, an all-Southern Conference freshman team selection who averaged 10.4 points and made 64 3-pointers, a UTC freshman record.

The Gilbert sisters have proven to be versatile over the course of their careers, and Shelbie Davenport had some solid moments in her first season on the court after transferring from Clemson. Nakeia Burks (5-10) provided some defense off the bench with her size and length as a guard.

In addition to Lee and Whitaker, new players on the roster will include guard Brooke Burns, versatile forward Bria Dial, Baylor School guard Mya Long and McMinn Central product Jacobi Lynn.

Foster had a message for his players after Saturday's loss to the Cardinals: Get better.

"Your opportunity to get better is between now and the first time you get together next year," he said. "That's how you do it.

"We do have a very talented class coming in. Our best success has been when we have three point guards on the floor, and we'll have that opportunity next year as we've got a couple of really good ones coming in. We've got some good ones already in the program, so that will make us better."

He also spoke of an overseas trip the program will take once the incoming freshmen are on campus, and that should serve as a good bonding experience for all of the Mocs.

"I like our youngsters, and I like some of these players coming in a lot," Foster said. "As Lakelyn showed this year, a freshman can come in and have an impact right away and be an essential part of who you are right away.

"I think the competition in the gym is going to be a lot of fun."

Contact Gene Henley at Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.