NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, January 12,
By Bethany Bradsher
Macy system gains a convert in
(ECU SID images)
All rights reserved.
Carolina women's basketball coach Heather Macy is grateful that the Lady
Pirate who has taken the most naturally to her system of play is also one of
the players who get to spend the most time in it.
sophomore Ariana Jackson, known to teammates at A.J., and she has
established herself as a steady presence through the first stops on the
Conference USA schedule, putting up 16 points in each of ECU’s last two
games, against Memphis and Texas-El Paso. In the UTEP contest, Jackson
scored her second career double-double, pulling down a personal-best 12
rebounds to go with those 16 points.
For all of
her contributions at game time, Jackson is proving to be just as valuable in
practice, where she sets a standard that makes her a full partner in
instilling the values and priorities of Macy’s new system.
“The kind of
person she is, and the things that she does off the floor, really walks in
the footsteps of what we’re building here and the direction we’re going,”
said Macy, who came to ECU on April 30. “We’re real proud of her and really
excited that we have three years to work with her.
believes in what we’re doing so much, to know that she’s here long term
been a reliable go-to for the Pirates since the season tipped off — she is
the third highest scorer on the squad and is leading the team in free-throw
percentage with 77.6 percent — but in recent weeks her play has been
elevated, an improvement she traces to a growing comfort level in Macy’s way
of doing things.
definitely think there’s been a little shift,” Jackson said. “As every game
goes on I get a little more comfortable in our system. It has been a little
adjustment coming from last year and then accepting this new system, but I
take on everything she challenges us with, and I love our new system.”
A native of
West Palm Beach, FL, Jackson came to East Carolina because she was drawn by
the differences between Greenville and South Florida and the recommendations
from former ECU assistant coach Jocelyn Wyatt. And even if parts of her
Pirate experience have been turbulent, she is absolutely sure that she made
the right choice when she came north.
equally sure, because in Jackson she has found a potent scorer and hustling
rebounder who leans in at practice and then brings to bear against her
opponents the lessons from practice.
“AJ is the
hardest worker on our basketball team,” Macy said. “It doesn’t matter if
we’re doing a shooting workout or we’re in the weight room, she’s putting
100 percent into everything.”
observers realize, Jackson said, how difficult the turbulent spring was for
her and her teammates. First
Sharon Baldwin-Tener left after
eight successful years at ECU, then
Wes Moore was introduced as the next
Pirates coach but announced the next day his intention to stay at
accepted the job, assembled a staff and started the process of building her
certain principles and values that we’re instituting, and we’re also
gradually progressing toward the style of play that I want to play,” she
said. “We’re not playing as fast as what I want to play, we’re not defending
the ball as hard as I want to defend and we’re not pushing the ball and
scoring like what I hope we’ll be scoring in the future.”
C-USA is a
tough conference, but at 6-9 overall and 0-2 in conference play, the Lady
Pirates embark on a road trip to New Orleans with hopes of upending Tulane
and accelerating toward a peak in the postseason. Aiding Jackson in that
pursuit are players like seniors Allison Spivey and Kim Gay, and juniors
Ashley Clarke and Jean Best. Best was injured in the preseason and has been
slowly catching up on the court and in her conditioning workouts.
no games in Conference USA that are just gimmee games,” she said. “And
that’s the thing with this team, is we have to bring it all the time. We
need the players we rely on to mentally and physically prepare every time.”
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01/12/2011 04:48 AM