AU Women Open With Hoops Practice Saturday

Auburn, Ala.--The 2001 Auburn women's basketball team is young, but head coach Joe Ciampi says he is not going to use that as an excuse if the Tigers do not perform well.

The team opens the season with its first practice Saturday at 9 a.m. The Tigers will be hosts for a high school clinic on Saturday, Ot. 20th at 9 a.m. and then hold their first scrimmage following the clinic at 11 a.m.

"With the players we have and have brought in right now, I believe we can be eight strong and, hopefully, by SEC (time), we can have 10 players," Ciampi says. "I like who they are. We're young. I would rather be young and exceptional rather than be old and average. Right now, I believe this team can be exceptional if they understand how to play as a team."

Ciampi says he sees three of his freshmen signees having an immediate impact on this year's team. They are five-foot-seven point guard Nicole Loudon (Paterson, N.J., High), five-foot-nine shooting guard Natasha Brackett (Providence Day High, Charlotte, N.C.) and six-foot wing player Ezria Parsons (South Sumter High, Bushnell, Fla.). The trio will add depth to the backcourt where five-foot-five senior Carol Smith will start at the point, five-foot-nine sophomore Nancy Derrick will play shooting guard and five-foot-ten junior Lakeisha Johnson will play the wing.

"Those are six players that we feel can create offensive opportunities for us," Ciampi says. "That can create opportunities in our offensive philosophy. It's a system where an individual can create shots for your teammates."

In the front court, Ciampi says sophomore Tia Miller is going to be an exciting player to watch. "Tia is going to be our inside person that will hopefully control the paint," the coach notes. "She was a highly successful high school ballplayer. She sat out last year and now she is in a situation where she has grown into our system. We like what she can do both offensively and defensively."

The Tigers also get a boost in the front court with the return of Le'Coe Willingham after sitting out last season. As a freshman, the six-footer was the conference's Rookie of the Year two seasons ago and led the Tigers in scoring and rebounding. "Le'Coe can create problems for a lot of teams in this league, but more importantly she understands how to be successful and she brings a toughness with her. Hopefully, she'll be back to her form of two years ago."

Senior Brandi Hillman, who will serve as the 2001 team captain along with Smith, will also patrol the middle for the Tigers. After serving as a backup for three seasons, Hillman, at six-foot-one, has an opportunity to break into the starting lineup for her final season.

Adding depth to the front court will be a pair of junior college players, six-foot-two Kerdu Arbet and six-foot-four Crispina Correira. The duo both played together at Palm Peach Community College. Ardet will also see action for the Tigers on the wing.

AU will open the season with an exhibition team Nov. 3rd with an exhibition vs. Premier Players at 7 p.m. in Auburn.


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