BLUEFIELD — Finishing the season at .500 is not good enough.
Last season the Bluefield State Lady Blues played to a 13-13 record, the best mark the team has had in 17 years, but for head coach J.J. Oliver, that is not acceptable.
“When I look at our season last year we finished .500. That means we won just as much as we lost and for me, as the barometer setter for this program, that’s not enough,” Oliver said. “I’m not a person that aspires to be average, so our expectations are far higher.”
Oliver begins his fourth year at the helm of the Lady Blues. Between his first and second season the team tripled its win total and last year was a doubling of wins from year two. Oliver would like to see a doubling of win totals from last season to the upcoming one.
“If we were to double our win total this year we would have to go undefeated,” Oliver pointed out. “As funny as that sounds, that is our goal. Our goal is to win every game, taking one game at a time.”
The Lady Blues lost three starters and their sixth man to graduation and the returning point guard is out for the season. Charlene Diggs, Dragana Tomic, Tiffany Moorer and Kellie Morgan have all graduated, while Charity Harris injured her ACL and will sit out this season. Oliver, however, is optimistic with what returns at Bluefield State.
“We have a good core group coming back, a group that has been with me for the past two years or so and most of them have been productive in those past years,” Oliver said.
Tasia Nolan, Shay Gravely and Shae Mebane will be looked upon to lead the BSC attack.
“Tasia (5’11 Jr.) is really our leader on the team, vocally and defensively. She really gets us into things we really need to get into,” Oliver noted. “At the guard position we have Shay Gravely (5’7 Sr.), a local product going into her senior year. She has been with me since her freshman year and I really look for her to have a breakout season. Mebane (6’1 Sr.) is a post player who received WVIAC Honorable Mention last season and is a force on the offensive and defensive boards.”
Oliver also expects returners Indy Houser (5’10 Sr.), Jenaya Abernathy (5’8 Sr.) and Ashley Reid (5’5 Soph.) to get considerable playing time.
New to the program is Tanasia Blake (6’0), the only freshman on the team, a player from New York City who played on a state championship team in the Empire State.
Also joining the Lady Blues are transfers from Shaw University, Kearah Jefferys (5’5 Sr.) and Adana David (6’0 Sr.). There are two junior college players from Denmark Tech, the same school that brought Harris to BSC, Lela Singleton (5’8 Jr.) and Tonya Jackson (5’9 Jr.). Shakima Williams (5’6 Soph.) returns after sitting out the second semester last season and Janae Williams (6’0 Soph.) , another Denmark Tech product will take to the court as well as former Broward Community College player Ariel Paige (5’5 Jr.).
Hope Smith is a 6’4 junior post player from Pasadena, Calif., who played at Canyon Junior College last year, averaged a double-double and was an all-conference performer.
Oliver is optimistic with his blend of veterans and new players to the program and believes that Bluefield State, playing as an independent this season after the WVIAC went out of existence, will continue to improve on the hardwood.
“We feel like we replaced those individuals we lost with some student-athletes who can come in and contribute right away,” Oliver said. “We’ve got a good, very good recruiting class. We feel like they came in as one of my biggest recruiting classes since I came here.
“If we are able to mesh that talent and get them to learn our system pretty quickly, then we’ll be able to compete at a high level and at that point in time, this year, it’s very important that we get started quickly. We don’t really have the ability to drop games early and kind of feel our way because we’ve got to play from the beginning. The only way we do that is by being recognized in the top eight (of the region). That’s very important to us. Those are our goals and once we accept those as goals, we have to be willing to accept the process that it takes to get there.”
The Lady Blues opened the season Sunday at Fairmont State and host Bluefield College in an exhibition, Tuesday at Ned Shott Gymnasium.
Oliver is assisted again this season by Keisha White. White joined the program last year and according to Oliver has done a tremendous job with the ladies, working mostly with the team’s guards.
Oliver concluded by saying, “We wan to take each game one at a time. Our goals are to be competitive on a national level and we’re not there yet. When we reach those goals we’ll develop some more.”
— Contact Bob Redd at