Garrett ready to adopt leadership role under new regime

McLeod Brown | Sports Editor

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When the UNC Wilmington women’s basketball team took the court for the first time this season, there were numerous changes to the squad from last year.

Hall of Famer Cynthia Cooper-Dyke had stepped down from her position as head coach during the offseason, opening the door for former Tuskegee coach Adell Harris to take over the reigns of a promising program.

Additionally, All-CAA point guard and leading scorer for the Seahawks last season, Alisha Andrews, had transferred to conference rival Georgia State, while second-leading scorer Abria Trice bolted for East Carolina.

All in all, the prospects of the Seahawks having a successful season had dwindled because of the dynamic changes over the offseason.

Nevertheless, the team’s dominant force in the post, senior Karneshia Garrett, remains. While even she weighed her options of leaving over the summer, she decided that she had finally found a home in Wilmington.

“Over the summer, when we found out Coach Jimmy Garrity wasn’t given the job, I was like ‘Nah, I don’t want to be here anymore,'” Garrett said. “‘I don’t really know this lady that’s coming in. I don’t want to get to know here.’ I was being a hard head. So I did want to transfer but I’m glad I stayed.'”

The 6’2″ Hoover, Ala. native will look to use her size and strength to her advantage this season, something that she was always told would be key to her success in basketball.

“People used to tell me ‘You’re so big, you should be playing a sport,'” Garrett said. “‘So, my mom took me to our local rec center, I got on the team, and got hooked. When I got to the 6thgrade, I said ‘You know what? I think I can actually be kind of good.’ So every summer, every minute, every second of the day, I had a basketball in my hand.”

After playing for the Alabama Twisters throught the AAU circuit, Garrett entered high school as a prominent player in the state of Alabama, one who people knew was primed for a breakout career.

“My high school career, I was the stuff,” she said. “I was Ms. Basketball. I went to two different high schools, but when I left the first one, everybody was like ‘Oh god, she’s in our region now?’ I was the stuff in high school.”

During her junior year of high school at Wenonah, Garrett averaged 11.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. This led to her being named to the Second-Team Class 5 All-State team. When she transferred to Hoover High School for her senior year, she gained more accolades as she was selected to participate in the Alabama North-South Basketball Game.

Her decorated high school career led to her signing with the University of Alabama after the conclusion of her senior year. However, due to academic issues, she was forced to attend Pensacola Junior College, where she better honed her game.

“I went to junior college first, but I played in the best junior college conference in the nation,” Garrett said. “Those girls were Division I athletes, this and that, and my freshman year, I was Panhandle Conference Freshman of the Year. So I was like, ‘Dang, if I can do this and I’m just a freshman, let’s keep it going, let’s see how far I can go.’ My sophomore year, it was the same thing. People knew me as a beast. I got here and I tried to continue that.”

After wrapping up her sophomore year at PJC with a third place finish in the national championship, Garrett was left deciding between the University of Cincinnati, the University of Missouri, or here to continue her collegiate career.

Following much debate, the powerful forward chose to join the Seahawks, in part due to Coach Cooper-Dyke’s legacy.

“It was a tough one,” Garrett said of the decision. “There was a lot going on and I felt more comfortable with Coach Cooper than I did with any of the other coaches. I came here to play for a Hall of Famer in Coach Cooper.”

Becoming the fourth leading scorer on the team at 9.8 points per game and the team’s leading rebounder at 7.5 rebounds per game, Garrett quickly established herself in Coach Cooper-Dyke’s rotation.

She was a key cog to the Seahawks’ berth into the WNIT, starting 21 of 32 games while finishing with seven double doubles on the season.

After accomplishing so much during her junior year, Garrett was optimistic of her role on the team this year, as well. That was until Cooper-Dyke left for Texas Southern University over the summer.