Oct. 16, 2009
FAYETTEVILLE - Eva Patterson-Heath hasn't been sleeping well lately.
She admitted she was nervous, and a little anxious, heading into the Fayetteville State women's basketball team's first practice on Thursday afternoon.
Once she was on the court, the first-year head coach said all the anxiety disappeared.
"It was as if I was just right back into what I was doing," Patterson-Heath said. "I felt good about the effort from our players. They have to learn me and my system as well as my learning them. They were very receptive, eager to learn and ready to get started."
Added senior center Randi Watts: "At first everybody had to learn the drills. But, once we got a hold of it, everything was fine. Everybody was working really hard and pushing themselves."
Patterson-Heath coached 24 seasons at Red Springs High School in Red Springs, N.C. She won 503 games and made the state 2-A championship game twice.
She said there are major differences between high school and college basketball.
"The level of athleticism is different here," Patterson-Heath said. "My expectations are different because they are college players, they're women."
Unlike her counterpart Alphonza Kee, Patterson-Heath won't need to totally rebuild her team.
The Broncos were picked to finish in a tie for second place with Shaw University by the CIAA coaches association. FSU returns 11 letterwinners and four starters from last year's 19-9 team.
"Anytime you have players returning that's a one-up," said Patterson-Heath. "That's good because they know each other and they know each other's strengths and weakness."
Patterson-Heath said she plans to implement her up-tempo style of play.
"They're smart and they're basketball players," she said. "We'll install our program. Once we figure out how they learn, we'll adapt and make changes."
Junior Erica Gilley
and guard L'Oreal Price were selected to the ALL-CIAA Preseason team earlier this month.
Gilley averaged 11.1 points and 5.1 rebounds, tallied a team-high 59 steals and started 26 of 27 games for the Broncos last season. Price played and started in all 27 games for the Broncos during the 2008-2009 season. She averaged 8.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and was second on the team with 58 steals.
"We're getting fundamentally sound to better ourselves," Watts said. "We only lost one player and with the team we have returning we should be better than ever."
Patterson-Heath said the biggest challenge for her players will be learning their roles.
"A big emphasis is going to be on playing defense," she said. "We're figuring out - we have some ideas of who can do what, but we have to find their roles and put it all together."
Before the Broncos' practice on Friday, Patterson-Heath looked refreshed.
"I slept better last night," she said.
FSU begins the season with a trip to Francis Marion on Nov. 18.