Throughout the greatest season in Big South basketball history, Gregg Marshall preached the mantra Unfinished Business. After the Winthrop men lost a heartbreaking NCAA tournament game to Tennessee in 2006, the following year was all about getting to the tournament and winning a game. When the Eagles completed the task by beating Notre Dame, the entire community knew the effort that had gone into that success.
While some players on the current Winthrop womens team were not even teenagers yet when Torrell Martin and Craig Bradshaw thrust the Eagles into the national spotlight, they are borrowing the Unfinished Business mantra now.
The Eagles finished 21-12 last season but were upset in their opening conference tournament game. While the disappointment of losing to Longwood remains, beating Florida Gulf Coast in the Womens National Invitation Tournament, and the return of two-time conference player of the year Dequesha McClanahan gives the Eagles reason for optimism. McClanahan, who is playing for the same coach in back-to-back seasons for the first time in her career and is likely to become the leagues all-time leader in scoring and assists, knows that her legacy depends on winning.
This is my last season at Winthrop, she said Thursday at the Big South Media Day in Myrtle Beach. Ive been here for three years and havent won anything. I have nothing to show for all of the awards, the preseason and postseason player of the years. To leave with something is very important to me. Im going to put everything on the table to get what I want: a ring.
Coach Kevin Cook is not shying away from the teams singular goal.
You have different coaches who avoid talking about championships, said Cook. I believe the opposite. You have to talk about championships if youre going to win one. We talk about it almost every day. The players embrace it. Theyve come up with their own motto, No pressure, no diamonds.
In addition to McClanahan, Winthrop returns Big South freshman of the year Schaquilla Nunn. Despite both players being named preseason all conference selections, media and coaches picked the Eagles second behind perennial powerhouse Liberty.
Theyve only won it the last 50 years I think, Cook joked. We talk about them. We know that the championship goes through Liberty. Our players talk about it all the time. Its not something we shy away from.
The Flames have captured the title in 15 of the last 17 seasons. Liberty coach Carey Green thinks perhaps the bulls-eye should be on Winthrops back.
Winthrop has the preseason player of the year, last seasons player of the year, the freshman of the year, youd have to be foolish not to look at that and respect the talent, said Green. Im still a little bit puzzled why they werent picked number one.
Winthrop begins the season by playing host to College of Charleston on Nov. 10. League play starts December 14.