By MICKEY FURFARI
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
“We’re excited and look forward to next season,” Coach Mike Carey said of the West Virginia women’s basketball team’s chances for success.
“We have everybody back but one player. We have one year in the Big 12 Conference, so we know a bit more of what to expect now.”
Carey, who turns 55 on July 4, is eager to begin his 13th season with the Lady Mountaineers. He came here after 13 years as the head men’s coach at Salem International University.
He believes his players will be better prepared for the 2013-14 campaign as far as travel, style of play and that type of stuff. Those posed problems during the first go-around for West Virginia.
“So we do feel a little bit better about those things now,” Carey admitted, “than we did last year.”
Carey also is elated that Asya Bussie, an outstanding 6-foot-4 center, is back for her senior season. She tore an ACL in the second day of practice and sat out last year as a redshirt.
Jess Harlee, a 6-foot-1 sophomore forward, is doing very well in rehab and that’s also encouraging to the veteran mentor and his pupils.
Other significant returnees include Christal Caldwell, a 5-foot-9 guard; Taylor Palmer, a 5-foot-9 senior guard; Averee Fields, a 6-foot-1 junior forward; and Lanay Montgomery, a 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman center.
Caldwell led last year’s team in scoring with 15.1 points per game. Palmer averaged 9.9 points.
Carey thought last year’s 17-14 record was pretty good, especially since Bussie’s sidelining, the tougher schedule and the Big 12 debut.
His WVU record for 12 seasons is 244-141 and for his 25-year career is 532-243. He is proud of the fact that the program is among the nation’s Top 25.
West Virginia’s strength of schedule is among the 10 strongest throughout the country. Virginia, Ohio State, Ole Miss and Washington are among the Mountaineers’ non-conference foes on the 2013-14 schedule.
Carey thinks opponents like those really help his team prepare for Big 12 opposition. He doesn’t believe in loading up with easy teams.
“Our girls are working hard in the summer, and I’m proud of them and the effort they are putting into the preparations for next year,” Carey stated.
He said, in response to a question, that he missed coaching men when he first took over the women’s team at WVU. “But I don’t miss that anymore,” he said.
“We built this into a strong program, and the players continue to work extremely hard. And I’m happy where I’m at. I’m happy coaching the women here.
“And I hope to finish my career at WVU!”
He noted that the Lady Mountaineers drew some slightly larger crowds for games at the Coliseum, and he’s hopeful those crowds will continue to grow.
“That’s great,” Carey added. “It makes for a good atmosphere in the Coliseum, and it make our players excited,” he added.