It’s been a historic year for the Norfolk State women’s basketball team, a year that they knew was going to be special last year, according to guard Deja Francis.
“Oh, from the beginning [we knew this was our year],” she said. “I’m not gonna lie, last year, actually. I thought we had it last year, but we didn’t. So I came into this season with that mentality; that we were going to make this year special.”
Head coach Larry Vickers then got to work improving the roster, adding forwards Kierra Wheeler and Skye Robinson. The duo definitely not only helped the Spartans become a better rebounding team according to Francis, but they became a more cohesive unit defensively. Which brings them to the second NCAA Tournament game in program history against the defending champion South Carolina Gamecocks.
Though a tall order, the no.16 seed is ready to make the most of its opportunity.
“It’s a game within the game, as well,” Vickers said. “These ladies have aspirations to play overseas, and they’re more than good enough. They’re really good basketball players. There’s nothing better than a film that you can send against the No. 1 team in the country to help them get the money that they deserve.”
Some more of that Spartan Magic
While NSU is setting itself up for future success, they’re very much locked in and believe they can follow in the footsteps of the Kyle O’Quinn led Spartans of 2012 when they shocked the world with the upset over Missouri.
Vickers was on that team as an assistant coach and he’s tried to bring that same energy and hunger to his team heading into Friday’s game.
“I think for us it’s just about building confidence all week and just kind of anything’s possible at this point of the year,” he said. “Even though we’re at their place anything is possible and you know anybody can have bad shooting nights.”
Francis said the story of what the NSU men accomplished has definitely invigorated the team.
“He’s just given us hope,” she said. “He’s given us goals throughout the game to set so we don’t take everything too overboard. We just take everything one possession at a time and go from there.”
Tip-off is at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, SC at 2 p.m. on Friday between Norfolk State and South Carolina.