WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Nobody took a bigger jump for Jen Hoover’s women’s basketball team last season than Milan Quinn.
As Hoover continues to stack highly-touted recruiting class on top on each other, it was Quinn’s step forward from her sophomore to junior seasons that fueled the Deacs run to the postseason last year.
Now, with nearly everyone back and even more young talent in the fold, the Deacs look to build on that success and make a run to the NCAA Tournament.
It all starts at 4 p.m. when the Deacs host Navy at Joel Coliseum.
Quinn, who posted 11 double-doubles last season for the Deacs, believes this year’s squad can build on last year’s WNIT appearance.
“It’s definitely giving us some confidence. It’s good for us,” Quinn said. “We’ve been playing together for more than a year now. We’re used to each other’s games. Putting all those pieces together gives us confidence. We’re moving in the right direction.”
Playing against former Deac and current WNBA talent Dearica Hamby helped Quinn hone her game during her first two seasons in Winston-Salem.
“I recruited Milan and her sister when I was at High Point. We felt like she was a bit of a blank canvas. She was a blank canvas, and was one of the best rebounders we’d seen all summer,” Hoover said. “She was the kind of kid we wanted to build the program around. She’s a great kid. She’s a hard-working, high-character kid. We knew we were going to have to develop her, but knew she was a hard worker. She also had the privilege of practicing every day against Dearica Hamby and Kandice Ball, who is a big physical post player for us. Kandice wasn’t a scorer like Dearica, but Milan had to figure out how to not get blocked every day.”
Now, Quinn does it all, both on and off the court. She averaged 10.7 points and 9.1 rebounds last season for the Deacs. She’s the leading returning rebounder in the ACC.
“She was in our first signing class — she and Jill Brunori. She has become this confident, beautiful young lady. She’s the total package,” Hoover said. “She’s great on the court. She’s great off the court. She’s a leader with her teammates. She wants to be a doctor. She’s never taken the easy way out. We’ve got to see what that’s done for her on the court, and our younger kids see that. It’s something they look up to.”
Quinn’s now causing fits of her own in practice for the Deacs, as she shows her versatility and experience against the younger talent Hoover has added to the squad.
“I can’t stop Milan,” freshman forward Tyra Whitehead told Hoover.
“You shouldn’t be able to stop her at this point,” Hoover told Whitehead.
“Kids don’t realize the benefit you get every day by playing against that. People had to remind Tyra that Milan is a senior in the ACC — She’s at a senior level of post play for us and in our conference,” Hoover said. “I couldn’t be more excited. She’s worked hard and waited for her opportunity. When her opportunity came, she seized it because she was ready. She wasn’t waiting to get ready with the opportunity came. She was quietly working. Did she want to play more her first two years? Absolutely she did.
“But she didn’t complain. She stayed positive and kept working to get better. Then last year for her to have that kind of year — and it’s given her so much confidence. She’ll give her teammates all the credit for it.”
Basketball runs in Quinn’s family. Her mother actually played at Wake, and her sister, stepfather and both grandfathers were all basketball players.
“Me and my step-dad play one-on-one all the time, but I always beat him,” Quinn said. “Not always, but most of the time — he has a bad back.”
Quinn’s happy with how her game has developed, but knows she’s still capable of more.
“It feels real good and it’s a great confidence builder. I don’t want to get complacent with where I am,” she said. “I don’t want to be ok with where I am. I want to build on my game everyday, and go as far as I can.”
The Deacs are excited about the inside-out opportunities this season.
“With Elisa (Penna) on the wing and Clarisse (Berranger) out there, defenses are going to have to respect them and that’s going to open up the middle more,” Quinn said. “If the inside game is going well, it will open things up for them. We have weapons everywhere.”
Hoover will begin deploying those weapons at 4 p.m. this afternoon against Navy, as the Deacs being with four of their first five games at Joel Coliseum.