MYRTLE BEACH, SC–The Winthrop women’s basketball team has been voted to finish second in the 2013-14 Big South Conference race, marking the highest preseason ranking for the Eagles in the 30-year history of the league, and senior point guard Dequesha McClanahan was selected the Preseason Player of the Year by the conference head coaches.
After tying for second place in the regular season race last year, Coach Kevin Cook’s squad received 11 first place votes out of the 25 cast and totaled 256 points, only five behind perennial Big South power and defending champion Liberty which received 13 first place votes. Gardner-Webb, who was picked fifth in the poll received the other first place vote.
Winthrop is coming off a record-setting year that saw it finish with a 21-12 record and a first round victory over Florida Gulf Coast in the Women’s Invitational Tournament. The 21 wins were the most for Winthrop since the school became a NCAA member in 1985.
“I feel like the panel did right by picking us at No. 2,” said Cook. “We haven’t won the championship in the history of the conference and Liberty has won the thing nearly every year. But if we are fortunate to win the title this year, then I hope we will be picked No. 1 at this time next year.”
One of the primary reasons for Winthrop’s high selection is the return of McClanahan, a two-time Conference Player of the Year and a nominee for the Lowe’s Senior Class Award. McClanahan (Oak Ridge, TN) will enter the season on Nov. 10 against College of Charleston needing only nine points to become the all-time Winthrop women’s scoring leader and needs 464 more points to become the all-time Big South scoring leader. In addition to her scoring prowess, McClanahan needs 70 more assists to break the school assist record. She has led the Big South in scoring and assists in each of the last two seasons.
She will have a strong supporting cast this year, most notably 6-3 sophomore center Schaquilla Nunn, who was voted to the 2012-14 Preseason All-Conference First Team. Nunn (Fayetteville, GA) was voted 2013 Big South Freshman of the Year after ranking second in the league in rebounding and blocked shots. She set a Winthrop single season rebounding record with 304 and in blocked shots with 97.
Cook also has returning starters in 5-8 junior guard Samiya Wright and 5-11 junior forward Taylor Calvert to call on for experience and leadership. The roster includes nine newcomers, including six talented freshmen and two players who redshirted last year.