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Head Women’s Basketball Coach Tajama Ngongba swears she runs tough practices, but anyone who sees her off the basketball court would think differently. Ngongba enjoys joking around and having fun with her players off court, but on court, it’s all business.
Entering her fifth season with the Radford Women’s Basketball team, Ngongba has big expectations this year to fulfill after the big 2011-2012 season in which the Highlanders marched into the Big South Tournament semifinals for the first time since 2008. The team finished the season with a 16-15 overall record on the year and an even 9-9 in Big South Conference play.
Every year Coach Ngongba comes up with a theme for the season. This year’s theme, “one mind…one heart,” came about after last year’s season when the team decided they needed to work better together and tune out outside distractions.
“The girls spend so much time around each other that there are going to be little problems that occur, but they always look out for each other,” Ngongba said. The motto for the year is worn on a band around the whole team’s wrists’ to act as a small reminder that the goal this year is not only to succeed, but also to come together as team.
This year’s team will definitely have experience on their side with six seniors, one junior, five sophomores, and three freshmen. Among the senior class is standout guard Da’Naria Erwin Spencer who has already reaped honors by being selected to the preseason all conference team. Ngongba has also been pleased with the incoming class thus far,
“They look solid and this will probably be one of the most talented classes in the guard position that we have ever had.” That bodes as a good sign for the Highs as their style is guard-oriented.
As a team, Radford has been picked to finish fifth in the conference.
“The conference is tough, I think this is the best I have seen the Big South compete in the history of the conference,” said Ngongba.
As for the toughest team in the conference, Ngongba believes it will be Liberty University or High Point University.
“They both have very dynamic styles of play,” Ngongba said.
Practice for the women began on Thursday, Oct. 1, and per NCAA rules, the team can have a maximum of 30 practices in 40 days.
“We usually start out slow with three days of practice then a day off and then two days of practice and then a day off. I realize that if you start off with five days of straight practice, everyone especially freshmen are like walking zombies,” Ngongba said, with a laugh.
Regardless of the cap on practice time, the Highs will need to get in as much as possible with the tough outlook on the conference schedule this year. Facing tough teams such as North Carolina, Clemson, Marshall, and William and Mary will be difficult hurdles to cross.
“These games will definitely get us ready for conference play because these teams are quick, big and can shoot very well,” Ngongba said.
Ngongba looks for her large senior class to lead the team this year, not only on the court but off the court as well.
“This senior class is very talented and I look for us to be even more competitive this year than in previous years,” Ngongba said.
As for the coach’s main point of emphasis this year, everything revolves around rebounding.
“It will be a big key for us this year. We did not maximize it as much last year, but we should with the talent we have now,” Ngongba pointed out.
Ngongba’s main goal, every time she is around the game of basketball, is to keep it light and have fun.
“These girls should enjoy this game as much as I do,” said Ngongba.
The team will certainly get enjoyment lifting a trophy over their heads at the end of the year if they stick to the motto of the year: “one mind, one heart.”