Charlotte Women’s Basketball has two reasons to be excited for the 2018-2019 season. A young core of players from this season will be returning and will gain a talented veteran presence in the forms of guards Christian Hithe and Jade Phillips. Hithe, a redshirt sophomore, and Phillips, a redshirt junior, had similar ways in which they found their careers crossing paths at Charlotte.
Hithe transferred to Charlotte after a one year stint with the University of Central Florida Women’s Basketball program. Her time there led to gaining some experience but evidently was not the right fit.
“It was a cool experience, but it wasn’t the best fit for me. When I got there I connected with my teammates right off the bat but there was a coaching change and the coaches who had recruited me were no longer with the program. Throughout that year the process of having to adapt to a new coach led to me feeling it would be be best for me to be somewhere where I knew what the coaches were about.” Hithe said.
Phillips transferred to Charlotte after having spent two seasons with Syracuse University. Both seasons with the Orange her team took trips to the NCAA Women’s Tournament, including a National Runner-Up finish her freshman year. This experience has benefited her game and who she is as a player today.
“I definitely learned a lot that year. Even though I wasn’t playing much, I realized that it takes a lot of focus and dedication to get to that spot. It takes a lot of consistency as well because when you’re playing at that level you are playing with higher level competition. You have to come ready to play and be focused and have that mentality on and off the court to get to that level and avoid distractions.” Phillips said.
After having played high school basketball in South Carolina, Hithe played in Florida and is now going to play for Charlotte. Traveling is nothing new for Hithe as she had done so for USA select teams when she was younger.
“It’s a really cool experience to be able to travel where I have been. Being in Florida was nice because the weather was always good and there were palm trees everywhere you look. Having been in South Carolina and now North Carolina is not too different but regardless of where you go, basketball is basketball. I even played overseas in Austria on a USA select team and that was very cool as well.” Hithe said.
Like Hithe, Phillips is also a trailblazer of sorts. Her high school basketball was played in Raleigh, NC and from there she signed with Syracuse which is located in New York. Although she was glad to get out of her comfort zone for two years, Phillips is happy to be back in North Carolina with Charlotte.
“It was a good experience for me because I had never been outside of the state. A big reason I picked Syracuse was to go to New York because I had always been in North Carolina. I got to see the difference in people and their style of play up there in Syracuse and it was a different experience but I enjoyed it and all of the experience that came with it. There is no place like home and me coming back home made me humble myself and be grateful that I get to be around my family and other people I know and it makes me feel more comfortable.” Phillips said.
The process of Hithe deciding to transfer to Charlotte all started when she was still in high school. Even after having decided to go to UCF, Charlotte was on her radar and Coach Consuegra had congratulated her on the decision. This kind gesture resonated with Hithe and made her decision to transfer to UNC Charlotte easy.
“Coach Cara and the coaching staff recruited me out of high school but I chose to go to UCF. Throughout the whole recruiting process, even after I committed to UCF they called me and congratulated me. They remained loyal even after I hadn’t chose Charlotte and loyalty is really huge to me so that was the icing on the cake and I know what she is about. I know the offense they like to run and just seeing Coach Cara is like seeing my own mom. I know I can talk to her about anything and she will still get on me about things but at the end of the day I know she loves me as if I were her own child.” Hithe said.
In similar fashion, Phillips was also recruited by Charlotte out of high school. Even though she initially decided to go out-of-state and play for Syracuse, the impact that the Charlotte coaching staff had on her played a huge role in leading her back to North Carolina to play for Charlotte.
“Even when I was getting recruited by Syracuse, Charlotte was always there. I had initially picked Syracuse because that was ACC competition and that was the conference I was looking to be in. But I came back to UNC Charlotte because Coach Cara stuck with me even when I committed to Syracuse. That’s what made it feel right for me when I decided to transfer here.” Phillips said.
Hithe feels that she is a strong defensive player that can bring a lot of energy to this program. Having the opportunity to play under a coaching staff she is comfortable with will have a positive impact on her game and will be a key for next season. Although she has had to sit out this year due to NCAA regulations on transfers, she still feels she has been able to have an impact.
“So far this season I feel that I have brought a different energy and a different mindset from previous teams. Next year I feel I will really be able to implement that mindset and really demonstrate what it means to have a good work ethic and consistently show that hard work does pay off. I feel that on defense I will be able to bring a tremendous amount of energy and a mindset of actually wanting to play defense instead of just having to play defense.” Hithe said.
Phillips is more of an offensive minded guard who feels that her versatile skill set will be able to mesh well with what the team is looking to do on offense. She also is a solid rebounder for the guard position and feels that will be a good strength to provide the team with.
“I feel like I bring my athleticism by going for the boards. I can shoot, crash, drive, and attack which makes me a very versatile player and I feel that will help the team get wins next year and I will do what I have to do.” Phillips said.
The transfer stories of both Christian Hithe and Jade Phillips follow a very similar path and it will be exciting to see what they can bring to the program. With Hithe being a leader on defense and Phillips being a key play-maker on offense, Charlotte Women’s Basketball has a lot to look forward to for next season. The stories of both of these players goes to show the power of a first impression.