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Sanders brings size to perimeter

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East Carolina senior Mickayla Sanders runs defensive drills during practice on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, October 23, 2017

Coach Heather Macy and her East Carolina women’s basketball team thrive on creating matchup problems on the court.

This season, that could include a heavy dose of Mickayla Sanders. She is a graduate transfer from Liberty who is 6-foot, but mainly a wing player with 3-point shooting as her specialty.

“I’m 6-feet tall, but technically 6-1 with the insoles that I have,” said Sanders, a Clayton native who made a total of 102 triples during her three seasons at Liberty. “They are custom made, so it makes me a little bigger.”

ECU made 136 3-poiners last season, and gave up 159. Then-seniors Antoinette Bannister and Khadidja Toure had 90 combined makes for the Pirates.

Sanders is in position to fill at least part of that void.

Her being a 6-footer is a plus, especially when surrounded by other ECU’s guards like Raven Johnson and Justice Gee who are geared more toward driving to the basket. 

“(Outside shooting) is something that me and coach Macy have really talked about, just developing to make sure that I stay consistent in that for the team throughout the year,” Sanders said. “Since we have such great penetrating and driving wings and a good inside, it’s really important to have a good outside threat. We also have some freshmen who are shooting the ball well.”

Sanders and Thais Oliveira (6-2) are the team’s only seniors, and Oliveira is the only returning true post player. There are a few new additions in the post from the junior college ranks, which could led by the infusion of 6-3 Tania Pierre-Emile from Eastern Arizona Community College.

Shooting and scoring will no doubt be key for the new-look Pirates early in the season, which begins Nov. 10 against USC-Upstate, but Macy also wants height and strength on the defensive end. She said before a recent practice that recruiting bigger guards is as much about defensive strategy — if not more — than scoring ability.

“We were as small as we needed to ever be a year ago,” said Macy, whose squad is looking to rebound from consecutive losing seasons after going 22-11 in 2014-15. “When we’ve experienced great success, we’ve been big at every spot. Maybe not the post spot, but big in every other spot on the floor to negate that.

“That’s what we really want and what we recruit toward. … If you can have (six-footers) at every position on the floor besides the point guard, then you are able to do a lot more defensively and are a lot more disruptive and it negates any rebounding disadvantage.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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