For the past couple of years, Pitt Women’s Basketball Coach Lance White has lacked a high number of upperclassmen, but now with eight present, he has noticed an uptick both in practices and with standards.
Now those on the court are starting to take ownership and this to put themselves in the proper positions to play meaningful games in March.
“We’re competing every day and that’s been a huge focus of our team, knowing our why,” White said. “Then you have to perform like that every day, compete in practice like it’s the game. The competition piece is something we couldn’t do the last two years. We were trying to get so many new players and now we’re all about competition.”
So what is that next level?
White characterized it as having a team which works extremely hard but trying to define why. That, he said, comes down to possessing a mentality where you want to win more than someone else.
Because of this new standard, White has acknowledged that he has to coach at a higher level this season and the standards that have been set are higher.
As the regular season approaches, White believes that cutting down turnovers and lowering opposing field-goal percentages are both major focuses.
“We’re going to be able to pick up a little more full court, be deeper, so those things will play into it. Rebounding has to be the biggest thing we do,” said White. “Offensively we were the best in the ACC, defensively we need to limit opponents to one shot. We have length and athleticism and we’re so much better at understanding concepts. That’s going to pay dividends throughout the year.”
Though it is natural to have a contagious energy before any season starts, senior guard Jayla Everett could not help herself.
Everett was softer spoken during her press conference, but her words could not have been more clear. She has truly enjoyed being a part of this team.
“It’s a big difference from last year to this year,” she said. “We still have our moments of course, but it is way easier just having our one-on-ones and being direct with each other.”
EVERETT EMBRACES ROLE CHANGE
Everett felt welcomed by her teammates, but as a self described “chill person”, she was used to getting her teammates involved.
From day one, White was high on Everett and never shied away from vocalizing that she had the potential to do special things at Pitt.
That potential was shown as Everett got off to a fast start to her regular season, but she still saw herself as a role player and did not feel it was her team.
Everett envisioned herself coming in and providing, not as the player who would take the lead. It took her parents to change that mindset.
“It took them to tell me that in order for you to get where you want to go, you’ve got to bring your team with you,” she said. “In order to bring your team with you, you have to provide what they are looking for from you.”
After taking to her new role last season, opponents also made adjustments, trying to get her off the three-point line, where she buried 52 triples last season.
It was Everett’s job to remind opponents that she could do more than shoot and continue to both impact and involve her teammates.
White expressed joy to have Everett on his side and is pleased with an ability he feels could make her one of the best players in the ACC.
“I think Jay is one of the most dynamic players in the country,” said White. “I think she’s got the ability to score on all three levels which is rare, plus she’s one of the longest athletes defensively that I’ve watched. Her quickness on the defensive end can really make it hard for anybody to score. The thing she’s done best in the summer and fall is become a consistent player. She went from a role player who had some really good moments, to being the one where she had to handle that pressure. It’s a hard role and she’s accepted (it).”
DUNN ADDS FACETS TO GAME
When it came time to transfer from Youngstown State, graduate student guard Mary Dunn had her mind made up that she was going to try something new and go far away from home, that is before being reminded about a childhood dream.
Growing up, Dunn wanted to play at Pitt and when she met White, there was an instant change of plans. She was going to play for Pitt, a feeling only strengthened when on her first day, she met White’s wife, Melanie.
Dunn came from Youngstown State where as a captain, she played her fifth season, in 2020-21 due to missing 26 games of the 2019-20 campaign with a knee injury.
Admittedly, there were high expectations for Dunn at YSU which make her nervous entering games, as often were she to score less than 20 points a night, the Penguins would lose.
“Coming here I don’t need to score 20 points a night, but there are so many other things I need to bring that I wasn’t even aware of,” Dunn said. “When I was at Youngstown I was the only senior. Just being around the upperclassmen here is amazing.”
White believes that the Horizon League transfer, can certainly make an impact in the ACC and believes she stands a strong chance as assisting Pitt reach its goals this season.
“Her versatility as a big to shoot the three and has those skills is rare,” he said. “She’s stepped in and accepted the challenge of pace, speed and physicality and met that head on.”