The Charlotte 49ers women’s basketball team hit a new stride last season, finding their highest Conference USA finish since rejoining the conference for the 2013-14 season. That 2017-18 group of Niners reached double-digit wins within their conference, accumulating the longest sheet in program history.

During the preseason last year, the program challenged itself with a tough non-conference schedule to go into conference play with a 4-10 record; 5-10 if the exhibition game against Coker to begin the season is considered. The Niners started off conference play with a telling win over Southern Miss and went on to finish with a tie for third in the regular season for Conference USA with a record of 10-6.

Following the regular season, Charlotte faced North Texas, who they had seen earlier in the season and lost to 73-68, in their conference tournament and fell 58-55 in the first round. Anyone who followed the game as it was happening would know how intense the play was and how much harder that made it, but none knew better than seniors Amaya Ransom, Nyilah Jamison-Myers and Jada Martin.

These seniors would realize that those were their last moments on the court as active Charlotte Forty-Niners, taking their sweat-soaked jerseys off at the end of the game for the last time, waiting for Consuegra and the rest of the staff to make their way to the locker room.

Both the guards and the forward were vital parts of the Niners’ presence in college basketball. Jamison-Myers was named a member of the All-Conference USA Defensive Team, finishing the year with 67 blocks and 109 in here two years as an active 49er, as well as netting her 1,000th career point last season. The Charlotte alum went on to play overseas, having signed with BLK Slavia Praha in the Czech Republic, becoming the fifth player to play professionally after having played under Consuegra.

Jada Martin, who walked on to the team before the 2016-17 season began, was a player that brought high energy to the program and quickly exhibited the Niners’ values of “HEART.” Martin proved herself in practices right off the bat, wanting to be better and was soon awarded a scholarship for her senior season as a Charlotte 49er. The walk-on guard contributed 150 minutes of playing time, scored all of her 17 points in her second year and snatched 13 rebounds.

Ransom will also be a force deeply missed, but even more so for the Charlotte offense, having scored 340 of the Niners’ 1,965 points scored over the course of the 2017-18 season. Ransom scored the majority of her career baskets during her senior year, scoring only double digits in each season prior.

To accommodate for Ransom’s graduation, Laia Raventós is now in her senior year. The guard from Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer, Spain finished her junior season with 428 points scored. Aside from the numbers in the points column, Raventós also added 176 assists, remaining a team-oriented player. She was named Preseason All-Conference USA and was also named to the All-Conference USA Team at the end of the 2017-18 season. In the summer of 2017, Raventós added a gold medal to her accolades as a member of the Spain team that grabbed the 2017 FIBA U20 European Championship title. As a leader who has become more vocal, more comfortable and more confident in what she can do, she is sure to continue to be a driving force for the Niners.

Octavia Jett-Wilson will be returning the court as another explosive body for Charlotte for her sophomore season. Jett-Wilson collected three Conference USA Freshman of the Week honors and was named to the All-Conference USA Freshman Team at the end of her first season as a Niner. The guard from Greenbelt, Maryland heated up the net with her free throws and dropped a total of 304 points by the end of the 2017-18 season.

Another sophomore approaching the 2017-18 season is Mariah Linney, who also earned a Conference USA Freshman of the Week title. Linney put 186 in the points column, grabbing 62 total rebounds and collecting 54 assists to begin her Charlotte 49er career. The guard from Goose Creek’s State Championship team left her high school career with many recognitions for her skill, including High School Sports Report’s Miss Basketball for South Carolina. Linney has grown more and more comfortable with collegiate level play and is sure to show it this year.

Junior Lauren Harley broke out into the game this past season, seeing her first two career starts, playing in 22 games and accumulating 62 of her 68 career points in her sophomore season. Lyrissa Deans played 47 minutes in her first year and collected her first two career rebounds and six rebounds, and will be beginning her sophomore season looking to show Niner Nation just how hard she’s been working with her team.

Redshirt junior Dara Pearson returns as that force on a team who does the most, putting forth her best effort with every movement and changing the feeling on the court as soon as she steps away from the score table and onto the floor. Pearson collected six double-doubles in the 2017-18 season, partly associated with her ability to crash the boards, having grabbed 257 rebounds last season with 167 of them being defensive.

Ka’Neeshia Brown will be starting her senior year alongside Raventós after pulling down her first five rebounds and putting up her first two points as a Niner. With these things in mind, Brown will be a powerhouse to look for in the paint.

Another bright spot for the Niners is not just a single player, but the roster as a whole. Charlotte is set to begin the 2018-19 season with a full, active 13-person roster. The bench will be deep with a roster that Consuegra feels confident she’ll be able to draw from. With four new freshmen learning quickly, and redshirt junior Jade Phillips and redshirt sophomore Christian Hithe ready for action, there’s no doubt the 49ers will be ready to give it their all out of the gate.

Aside from the names on the roster, there is still that coaching staff section to look into. Consuegra, who has the second-most winningest record in program history, currently stands with a 126-91 game record and is entering her eighth season as the Niners’ head coach. The Iowa basketball graduate led the 49ers to their best finish in Conference USA since returning to the conference in the 2013-14 season, ending the 2017-2018 season with their aforementioned third-place tie.

Consuegra keeps the program dedicated and hard-working with the help of each and every body that steps in and out of the gym by holding the core values of “HEART.” Those core values remain as Heart, Effort, Accountability, Respect and Toughness, and each one represents what it means to be a Charlotte 49er.

Alongside Consuegra are assistant head coach Joanne Aluka-White, assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Nicole Woods and assistant coach Tanisha Wright. Each of these women brings something different to the table, Aluka-White having played for Nigeria in the 2004 Summer Olympics where the team would garner the country’s first ever win in an Olympic game. Woods was a firecracker in her day, finishing out her single-season playing professionally as the second leading scorer for the Nottingham Wildcats and becoming the first ever women’s player at Belmont Abbey to have her jersey honored, in 2013. Wright remains the highest-drafted player from Penn State for the WNBA and before joining the 49ers coaching staff she concluded her 12th season in the league. Deciding she wasn’t done just yet, Wright signed a free-agent deal with the championship franchise, the Minnesota Lynx, after the Niners’ 2017-18 season.

With coaches like these, who work to exhibit “HEART” themselves as leaders, Charlotte 49ers are eager to begin what looks to be quite the season, beginning with an exhibition matchup on Saturday, Nov. 3 at 4 p.m. against Chowan in Halton Arena.

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