UVA Wise opens season Tuesday against Tusculum

King, former HHS standout, back for her junior season

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The UVA WIse women’s basketball team open its season on Nov. 24 at Tusculum University.

Third-year coach Jamie Cluesman hopes her UVA Wise women’s basketball team can stay healthier this season. The Cavaliers endured a barrage of injuries in a 12-16 season last winter. Prior to the injuries, Cluesman’s crew was 6-3 and while the season did not end as the team had hoped, there is plenty of reason for optimism heading into the COVID-19 shortened 2020-2021 campaign.

UVA Wise returns a pair of all-conference caliber guards in sophomores Caitlyn Ross and Nia Vanzant. Each woman earned All-SAC Freshman Team accolades a year ago and has received preseason recognition this winter. Ross. is a Preseason First-Team All-SAC selection while Vanzant picked up Preseason Second-Team All-SAC honors.

Ross finished her freshman season as the only player in NCAA Division II with 375 or more points, 160 or more assists, 140 or more rebounds and 60 or more steals while leading the SAC at 5.8 assists per game. The 5-foot-6 Kingston, Tenn. native turned in a triple-double performance in her team’s upset win over nationally ranked Catawba with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. It was one of 22 double-digit scoring efforts for Ross who finished the season averaging 13.6 points per game.

After losing senior leader Cynita Webb to injury, Vanzant became the Cavs most reliant scorer. The guard finished the season averaging 14.8 points per game but it was her play down the stretch that was eye opening. Vanzant scored 17 or more points in seven of the season’s final nine games; even more impressive, she scored 25 points or more in three of the games, including a season-high 30 points in a win over Queens. Overall, her offensive output against league foes was quite impressive as she shot 39.8 percent from the 3-point line, leading the team with 41 made 3-pointers in league games, while also posting a team-high 16.7 points per game when facing SAC opponents.

Redshirt senior Kaylee Johnson is also a reliable scoring threat. The Elizabethton, Tenn. native started all 28 games for UVA Wise last year while netting 12.3 points per game. Johnson’s athletic 5-foot-11 frame poses problems for opposing teams on both ends of the floor as she has the ability to play inside and outside while guarding a vast array of players when on defense.

Fellow senior Hanna Oliver returns at guard after having led the Cavs in made 3-pointers in each of her first three collegiate seasons. Known as the team’s best defender, Oliver has made at least one 3-pointer in 64 games during her career. Also, the team’s best free throw shooter, she has made 83.2 percent of her foul shots through three seasons.

In the paint, senior Ada Stanley has played significant minutes in each of her first three seasons. The Nokesville, Va. product played in 20 games last year and started nine in an injury plagued season that saw her average 8.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Stanley has shown to be a consistent shooter, having made 53.2 percent of her field goal attempts to this point in her career.

Senior Catrina Wood saw an increased role as a junior as she averaged 14.3 minutes per game. Wood found her way to the scoring column in 13 of the 18 games she appeared in.

Mackenzie King

Junior Mackenzie King is hoping to stay healthy this winter, the 5-foot-10 forward is known to be a team player willing to take a charge. Last season, she drew six charges in one game; on the offensive end of the floor, she can stretch the defense with her ability to shoot the three. Last year, she made multiple 3-pointers in eight of the 13 games she appeared in.

Sophomore Leah Kestner was starting to find her groove as a collegiate player before an injury ended her freshman season. Kestner made four starts and appeared in 13 games while averaging 6.2 points and 4.8 rebounds a night. The 5-foot-11 forward had a breakout game against Carson-Newman by going 6-of-7 from the floor en route to 15 points. Kestner was averaging 9.8 points per game over her last five games prior to injury ending her season.

Redshirt junior Meg Crawford is eligible this season after sitting out last year due to transfer rules. The 6-foot-3 center is an opposing body on the interior and cause havoc defensively without even blocking a shot. Fellow junior Makayla Richards has the ability to hit a long-range shot, she scored her first collegiate points last year after missing her freshman season due to injury.

Newcomers to the roster include guards Erin Egerbrecht, Peyton Sams and Aanyah Lambert along with forward Shalaya Fox.

Egerbrecht is 5-foot-10 from Johnson City, Tenn. who can handle the ball and make a long-range shot. Sams is a 5-foot-6 from Kingsport, Tenn. who was a three-time all-league player at Sullivan Central while Lambert, the sister of former UVA Wise running back Terrence Lambert, comes to UVA Wise after a stellar prep career at Kempsville High School in Suffolk, Va.

Fox is Galax High School’s all-time leading scorer and the 5-foot-11 Southwest Virginia native chose UVA Wise over some NCAA Division I offers.

Jaymi Golden has joined the team as a transfer from Queens but will be unable to play this season due to transfer rules.

UVA Wise will open the season Tuesday at Tusculum for the first of 22 conference games. The team will begin the home portion of its schedule on Nov. 28 against Coker inside the Prior Center.

Fans can listen to every game this season on FM 92.5 WLSD or online at wlsdradio.com home games can be seen live free of charge as part of the Cavalier Sports Network on uvawisecavs.com