The Clark Atlanta Panthers women’s basketball program under first-year head coach and former all-SEC and WNBA player Yolanda Moore couldn’t have started the 2017-2018 season worse than their 20-point loss to Johnson C. Smith University during their home opener on Nov. 15.
Veteran players like senior forward Lauren Turner and senior guards Kiyanna Johnson and Marissa Mandeldove were primed for breakout seasons, or at least that’s how it felt during the offseason and at the beginning of practice in October.
Flash forward to nearly a month later and the Panthers could not be playing better -with the exception of a four-point non-conference loss on Saturday in Atlanta to Winston-Salem State- and the 5-3 start may not look very spectacular but it’s light years from where the team has been in recent history.
For example, the Panthers won 10 games last season with virtually the same key players back. Another example, while the Panthers had a four-game winning streak snapped on Saturday afternoon, they failed to win more than two consecutive games last season.
“My main goal for this season is to see [this team] make different and better mistakes as the season progress,” Moore said. “I know if we are making better mistakes then we are growing and developing in the right way.”
Change has come to L.S. Epps Gymnasium in the form of the women’s basketball and it’s just in time for the massive changes Panthers men’s head basketball coach, former all-SWC performer and NBA first-round pick (‘83) Darrell Walker has already brought to campus.
Outside of the improvements on the court, Moore and Walker are improving the image of the programs as well.
“I believe that I am an example of what perseverance looks like and that who you are is more important than what you do because when the game is over you are still you,” Moore said.
Following the run to the SIAC tournament championship last season, the Panthers have come out of the gate just as hot as they were at the end of last season.
The Panthers won their first two games of the season in Florida and their first three games at home to open the season 5-0 before losing on the road at the University of Alabama at Huntsville (the same team that knocked them out of Division II NCAA tournament last year in the first round).
The reigning conference tournament champions have started a new win streak- this time three games- and with all three games coming against conference opponents -Miles College, Tuskegee University and last Thursday at home against Paine College- the start to what will be another tough SIAC East race has already begun on a high note
Walker and his team will be back in action on Monday at Shorter College in their final non-conference game of the season. Moore and her team will hold court next this Saturday against the University of West Georgia Lady Wolves.
Both Clark Atlanta basketball teams will host Central State University in a conference doubleheader on Saturday, December 16. Here’s to possibly have both teams come into that weekend affair on win streaks. If the early season has been any indication that possibility is quite realistic.
“Nobody cares about how you start,” says Moore. “It’s how you finish that matters most.”