MCGILL: Kemper Blends Familiar, New as @HerdWBB Season Looms
The Word on the Herd -- Oct. 4, 2017
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – As media members placed voice recorders on the table in front of him, first-year Marshall women’s basketball coach Tony Kemper joked that he was nervous for his first press conference.
“The chair I’m sitting in now is a lot different than the last one,” Kemper said Tuesday afternoon in the Hartley Room at the Henderson Center.
Previously, Kemper served as the associate head coach of the Thundering Herd. He was elevated to the head coaching position in March. Seven months later, Kemper is preparing his Marshall team for the season opener against Longwood on Nov. 10.
Tuesday’s press conference was new, but Kemper hardly looked nervous for the annual women’s basketball media day. A smile never left his face as he talked about the first three official practices of his head coaching career here, and he conveyed a sense of calm and comfort when talking about the 2017-18 season.
Why? Well, for as much newness there is for Kemper as he gets settled as the man in charge, he is surrounded by the familiar. Two of last season’s assistant coaches – Stephanie Stoglin-Reed and Lazar Milinkovic – returned as part of Kemper’s inaugural staff. Kemper hired Katie Pate, who has extensive head coaching and administrative experience, as his associate head coach. Marshall recently introduced Brooklyn Cartwright as director of basketball operations.
And then there’s the roster.
“Depth is a buzzword that comes to mind for me,” Kemper said.
“We return a lot of people,” Kemper said. “We return a lot of minutes. I’m not shy about telling them that we need to play better, but there are people here who have been through it.”
The return of Hamilton, he said, was key to that depth. She tops six feet tall and led the team in rebounding last season with 7.0 per game. In May, Hamilton was granted an additional year of eligibility by the NCAA because of various hardships and circumstances. That was a boon to the Herd’s interior presence and a victory for the entire program.
“When we got her back that was probably the thing that gave us depth,” Kemper said. “We were going to be OK, but now when we got her back … if you go watch us practice, it’s competitive in there. There’s more people pushing back. That’s when you get good. If we have people who can push her, our team is better. For her to come back, the depth that provided, that’s going to help us.”
Marshall returns Gore, Hamilton and seven others who saw action last season. Those nine players represent 85.4 percent of the minutes played last season and 83.7 percent of the points scored. Gore is the biggest piece of both of those numbers, as she averaged 31.1 minutes per game and 17.5 points per game last season.
Gore is coming off one of the top 10 individual scoring seasons in program history, and after two seasons she has two of the top seven seasons for 3-pointers in MU history. She’ll begin this season chasing the career record for 3-pointers, a mark that could fall by the time the calendar flips to 2018. Gore, a second team All-Conference USA selection a year ago, has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
Gore will have newcomers around her, too, as players like Taylor Pearson (Columbus, Ohio), Brianna Toney (Bexley, Ohio) and Kristen Mayo (Grayson, Kentucky) have joined the program as freshmen. Hamilton will get to play on the interior with 6-2 sophomore Ashley Saintigene, who was a Conference USA all-freshman team pick last season.
In short, there are plenty of reasons for Kemper to smile.
“There’s obviously going to be some veterans who have a huge impact on what we do,” he said. “It wouldn’t take you long to watch us practice for you to see there are some new ones who are going to have an impact on what we do.”