It hasn’t taken long for East Tennessee State women’s basketball coach Karen Kemp to appreciate what her team was missing last season, when Tarita Gordon was on the sidelines.
Gordon is back for her senior season and busy energizing a young team that will rely heavily on guard play. There aren’t many signs she is coming off knee surgery.
“Tarita hasn’t lost any explosiveness or quickness,” Kemp said Tuesday. “Really, she may be even better than she was.”
Gordon was a junior-college transfer from Kansas two years ago, and she started 21 games for the Lady Bucs. The most memorable was the last — a 30-point explosion against Xavier in the NCAA tournament in which she made five 3-pointers to keep her team close most of the way.
For the season, she averaged 11.1 points and was second on the team in assists.
The super-quick Gordon wants to expand her game this season, particularly her perimeter scoring.
“Every step of the way, my shooting has gotten better,” she said. “Now I’m seeing the court better, too. I’m seeing open teammates and getting them the ball.”
This figures to be a team that will need plenty of points from the backcourt. A season-ending knee injury to sophomore forward Ashley Miles has further thinned the possibilities inside.
“It’s a lot easier when you have a post who can dominate,” said Gordon. “With Miles going down in the preseason, that was a big hit. We’re mostly small and quick now, with a lot of speedy girls.”
The Lady Bucs certainly have a capable shooter in senior Natalie Pickwell. The former Sullivan South star made 70 of the team’s 151 3-pointers last season and shot over 39 percent, which ranked second in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
“Last year coach was expecting me to step up, and I shot the ball pretty well,” said Pickwell. “I need to keep doing that.”
Pickwell is one of three seniors, along with Gordon and Gwen Washington, and needs to be a leader. There are five freshmen on the roster.
“I’m really pleased with the freshmen,” said Pickwell. “It’s the best group since I’ve been here. We’re lacking depth in the post, but we’ve got a lot of good guards.