Deja Middleton is making her return to basketball.
Nov. 7, 2013
FAYETTEVILLE, NC -- Throughout her coaching career, putting together a winning ballclub has defined Eva Patterson-Heath.
In a 24-year stint at Red Spring High School, the coach managed to win nearly 80 percent of her games. In four years at Fayetteville State, she's had two 20-win campaigns and made one NCAA Division II tournament appearance.
Now it gets slightly more difficult. The Lady Broncos return just five players and one starter from a team that went 24-5 last year and 14-2 in CIAA play.
The Last Meeting
November 9, 2012
LADY BRONCOS BAPTIZE BARBER-SCOTIA 90-57 ON OPENING NIGHT
FAYETTEVILLE, NC - Basketball season is here! This evening, the Fayetteville State Lady Broncos christened Felton J. Capel Arena with a 90-57 victory over Barber-Scotia. Transfer senior Kristen Hanzer led the baptism with a game high 18 points. The remaining starting back-court of Akysia Resper and Alicia Person also scored in double-figures with 12 and 10 points respectfully. FSU led 43-27 at the half.
"You just have to recruit," Patterson-Heath said. "You gotta get out and you gotta find players that match your program schemes and your philosophy."
FSU fans get their first look at the eight new faces on Friday at home against Barber-Scotia at 5:30 pm in Capel Arena.
For all the freshness, guard Akysia Resper provides experience. The senior from Concord averaged 11.2 points per game and had 18 assists a year ago. Now she'll be tasked with meshing with a new starting foursome alongside her.
"She's just a heady basketball player," Patterson-Heath said. "She does a lot of things that coaches don't coach. Anything that needs to be done on the court defensively, she's smart enough to rotate and get that done."
Deja Middleton isn't a stranger to the FSU program, either. She's just been away for a while. But after taking a three-year absence from the game, the 6-foot-4 center from Richmond, Va., is making her return to basketball.
In the 2009-10 season, her last with the Lady Broncos, Middleton nearly averaged a double-double. She tallied 8.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game that year, helping FSU win a CIAA championship and advance to the Division II tournament.
At 23 years old, Middleton is just now entering her athletic prime.
"I think women especially reach their peak maybe in their mid-20s, late 20s," Patterson-Heath said. "I feel like when she first got back to school and was playing pick-up, she looked really really sharp. She looked a lot stronger physically and mentally. She's continuing to grow."
Amber Calvin, a North Carolina A&T transfer, will provide an immediate impact along the perimeter. The senior guard shot 42 percent from beyond the arc last season and averaged 9.8 points per game.
Joining those three in the early season starting lineup are De'Aira Smith, a freshman from Godwin, N.C., and Sequoia Morton, a junior transfer from Wingate.
Patterson-Heath recognizes there could be a learning curve for her squad. The three scrimmages show that. Regardless of the new personnel, Patterson-Heath wants to continue to employ an up-tempo pace of offense.
She said she hopes by Christmas time everything is up to speed.