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Women's Basketball Notebook

Blue Raiders begin summer workouts next week

July 12, 2013 · @MTAthletics

Preparations for the 2013-14 women's basketball season begin next week as Middle Tennessee and head coach Rick Insell open summer workouts. The Raiders are allotted two hours a week of practice time until official practice begins in late September.

Insell to make an appearance on the Saturday Morning Conversation

Coach Insell will make an hour-long appearance on the Saturday Morning Conversation with Greg Pogue tomorrow morning from 8 a.m. until 9 a.m. The broadcast can be heard on 102.5 The Game ESPN Radio Nashville or 97.5 in Murfreesboro. Coach Insell will discuss a variety of topics ranging from MT's move to Conference USA to the proposed changes in women's basketball.

Newcomers set to arrive

The Blue Raiders' veteran roster will be joined by five newcomers when workouts begin on July 16. Incoming freshmen China Dow, Olivia Jones, Tyisha Petty and Shy Copney are expected to debut for the upcoming season. Also, Pittsburgh transfer TiAnna Porter will be eligible for competition after sitting out last season. High Point transfer Cheyenne Parker will sit out this year due to NCAA transfer rules, but is eligible to practice with the team.

Dow arrives in Murfreesboro after wrapping up a career at the Christian Academy of Louisville that saw her set the school's all-time scoring record with 2,403 points as a four-year starter. The 5-foot-9 guard averaged 27.2 points and 13.5 rebounds during her senior campaign.

Riverdale products Jones and Petty look to match the level of success that the duo experienced over a four-year stretch in which they helped the Lady Warriors win three Class AAA state championships. The pair of guards ended their careers at the high school level with a 58-game win streak intact while both ESPN and MaxPreps named their Riverdale squad National Champions.

Copney and Parker should give the Blue Raiders added depth in the post over the next two seasons. Copney earned All-State honors as a senior, while leading her Science Hill squad to a 35-4 record and a trip to the AAA state title game versus Riverdale. She also received All-District honors in region 1-AAA.

Parker is the two-time reigning Big South Defensive Player of the Year and averaged 17.9 points per game last season while finishing third in the NCAA rebounding average at 13.2 per contest and first in blocks with 4.48.

A look at the returnees

Among those returning this fall for MT are six seniors, including Ebony Rowe and Shanice Cason who have a combined 151 career starts under their belts.

Rowe, a senior forward, has accrued her fair share of both national and conference awards during her first three years under Insell. The Lexington, Ky. native has garnered All-Sun Belt first team honors in each of her three seasons and was named honorable mention All-America by the Associated Press and the Women's Basketball Coaches Association after averaging a career-high 19.7 points and 11.2 rebounds in the 2012-2013 season. It was the third-consecutive season in which she averaged a double-double.

Cason, a junior guard, is a two-year returning starter and finished in the top four on her team in points, rebounds and assists while leading the team in steals. The Murfreesboro native will look to take on an expanded role after the graduation of All-Sun Belt guard Kortni Jones.

In the latter half of the season, both Janay Brinkley and Caroline Warden saw substantial playing time. Other notable returnees include Laken Leonard, Lauren March and KeKe Stewart who each started at least five games for MT last season.

Keeping Tabs on Alysha Clark

One of the team's all-time greats will also be returning to Murphy Center this fall when Alysha Clark returns as assistant coach after the conclusion of the WNBA season.

Clark currently plays for Seattle Storm of the league's Western conference where she has played in each of the team's first 13 games, averaging 4.6 points per game. The Storm currently sit in fourth place with a 5-8 record. Seattle hosts the Atlanta Dream on Sunday, July 14.

The Mt. Juliet, Tenn. native finished her Blue Raider career as the program's eighth all-time leading scorer despite only playing two seasons in Murfreesboro. She averaged 27.9 points and 10.7 rebounds over the course of her MT career and was named to five All-America teams her senior year.

A brief look at C-USA

The program's much anticipated inaugural season in its new Conference USA home will begin this fall where the Blue Raiders will take on a host of new opponents on the hardwood, as well as three former Sun Belt conference rivals.

MT played only one game against a C-USA opponent last season, an 82-68 victory over Memphis, which will play in the America Athletic Conference this season. However, the Blue Raiders were 6-1 against FAU, FIU and North Texas, the trio of Sun Belt squads that will also now call the league home.

C-USA's top returning schools from last year are Tulane and East Carolina. Each won over 20 games and finished in a tie for second at 11-5 in the conference standings, while earning trips to the Women's Postseason NIT.

The Green Wave look to remain strong this season with the return of three of the team's top four scorers from 2012-2013, a trio of juniors in Whitney Bibbins, Danielle Blagg and Tiffany Dale who averaged a combined 28.5 points per game in conference play and started a total of 53 times last season.

East Carolina will look to rebuild this season after the loss of its top three scorers in Whitny Edwards, Celeste Stewart and Britny Edwards. The Pirates do return starters Kyani White and Tatiana Chapple.

Tulsa finished the season at 17-17 but came on late to win four-straight in the C-USA tournament and earn the conference's automatic bid. Entering the tournament as a No. 16 seed, the Golden Hurricane were tied at the half against the No. 1 seed Stanford before eventually falling, 72-56.

However, like East Carolina, Tulsa lost three starters to graduation and will now look for last year's role players to step into expanded roles. Guards Kelsee Grovey, Kadan Brady and Ashley Clark each return after starting a combined 68 games and averaging 22.6 points per game last season.

Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.