The NC State women’s basketball team opens play in the first round of the ACC tournament today at 8 p.m. against Clemson in the Greensboro Coliseum. So far this week sophomore forward Bonae Holston has been named Honorable Mention All-ACC and Marissa Kastanek ACC Freshman of the Year. ACC Coach of the Year will be announced later today. To mark the beginning of post-season play, as part of our ongoing series “A Coach’s First Season,” we thought that we would take a look back over the regular season. During that four-month period, Peyton Williams took more than a thousand photos. Click on the slideshow above to see 44 of his favorite images. Below, we’ve posted his comments with his eight favorite photos. Which one is your favorite?
Other pieces in the latest installment include Coach Harper’s comments during a teleconference Tuesday and a list of links to stories recently published by other media outlets.
This was my favorite photo from the entire story. It was taken pre-game when player introductions are done with a spotlight. After the players are introduced, they shine the spotlight on the coach, and if you are standing on the court, she is backlit. At a previous game I saw this but could not get a shot of it in time. So I waited until the next game and put myself in position to get this photo. Thankfully the second time I got it. The photo carries some symbolism to me. The spotlight is on her literally and figuratively. Also, she is casting a long shadow. Foreshadowing of her future influence on this program?
This was taken just before Coach Harper’s first game as NC State’s new basketball coach. NC State was a step up in her career, and this photo reflects that symbolism: Moving up to the next level. Also of interest is that the stairs are each labeled with different “Steps to Success.” The locker room is downstairs and to get to the court requires a walk up these stairs. I had left the locker room to set up my gear on the court, but just as I was about to walk up the stairs, I stopped knowing that getting the coach walking up the stairs could make a powerful image. I waited in position for about 5 minutes until she came out of the locker room and walked up this flight of stairs. The whole time I waited I was afraid she would go up with a group of people. But I got lucky, she went up by herself and I was able to snap this image.
At an earlier game during a time out, I saw Coach Harper standing with her players. I looked down and saw a pair of high heels in a sea of sneakers. In a split second, the photo op was gone; gone before I could snap the photo. I can’t tell you how many photos I took later just trying to get a similar image. Persistence finally paid off when I took this photo. It’s difficult for me to explain why I like this photo. I think it has partly to do with Coach Harper’s youthfulness. One always thinks she is just a pair of sneakers away from running up and down court, scoring lay ups. Only her high heels separate her from her players.
A simple photo, but I used a 50mm f/1.2 lens that gives a wonderful depth of field. Look at the background: The depth of field is very shallow, with only coach in focus. You typically don’t see such a blurred background with an angle this wide. Also, the viewer can get a sense of her wonderful spirit in this photo. She was laughing at something that was said; she has such wonderful sense of humor.
The spirit of Coach Kay Yow is present in Reynolds in about every corner. Here is an equipment chest plastered with old signs of Coach Yow’’s past conquests — always providing a reminder of the legend who once paced the sidelines.
The photo was taken when the Coach Yow banner was unveiled during halftime of the Hoops 4 Hope game. The mix of emotions in this photo are the same as those in the entire building. This is of two former players. The person on the left is looking up at the banner, smiling and seems happy to see the banner honoring her former coach unveiled. At the right, the person is in her thoughts, possibly remembering Coach Yow. Everyone was that night.
I sense a quiet before the storm. Coach Harper is reviewing her notes one last time before her team comes in for the pre-game meeting before playing Maryland. NC State won 73-45.
It was obvious at the outset of starting this project that the bond between Coach Harper and the players was very strong. They love her; it’s obvious every time I am around the team. I have a wider shot of this scene, but I like this one most. It concentrates on the interaction between the team; faces aren’t important here — the bond is.
Coach Harper’s Comments during Teleconference Tuesday
Coach Harper spoke with the media via telephone Tuesday about the ACC tournament. Here is an edited transcript of it. Go to theacc.com to listen to the teleconference and to hear from the rest of the women’s basketball coaches in the ACC.
On her first ACC tournament
We’re excited about the upcoming tournament. I’ve been very proud of our team this year and their heart and their effort and their resiliency. They’ve been fun to coach and they still want to go out and compete. . . . I have never been to the ACC tournament in person. I have watched some games from there in the past few years. One of the first things that you learn when you become a coach in the ACC is how wonderful the tournament is in Greensboro. I have heard a million things about how well supported and taken care of the teams are. The coaches absolutely love the tournament. I’m so excited about having this opportunity. And from talking with everyone in Greensboro, everyone is just so fired up and excited. I think that’s important. We have some of the premier teams in the country. . . . And I think it’s good for our players that when they go to the tournament, they feel loved and feel important.
On playing Clemson again
. . . . I think we’ll be pretty motivated going into this game. I don’t think we’ll have to use [motivational] tactics. I think they understand what we need to do to get a win. I t think they understand how hard we’re going to have to play and how smart we’re going to have play.
On the 8’clock start time of the Clemson game
[It could help us.] I personally hate 8 o’clock games. I’m early to bed, so I may be tired in the second half. It’s just something the players are used to. Anywhere between a 2 o’clock and the 7 or 8 o’clock timeframe probably makes your team a little more comfortable.
On how the team has been successful despite being undersized
We’ve played extremely physical and really utilized our strengths. We don’t have height, but we’ve utilized our strengths in the paint. Our guards have done a really nice job pressuring the basketball and have really taken away our opponents’ ability to stand there and pick us apart. We’ve really looked at our defensive effort as a collective. It takes five people to defend and working together to keep people who are much bigger than us from really going off on us.
On how the team has dealt with the loss of junior forward Tia Bell, who tore her ACL mid-season
Sometimes when you lose a player like Tia Bell it really hits your team hard emotionally and mentally. It took a little bit of time to get over that. It took us several practices and games to realize how we need to play without her. It changed our rotation . . . [and] what we wanted to do on both ends of the floor. But now our team is comfortable with our game plan and we’re in a much better place.
On being successful with various offensive tempos
Our success comes when we focus in on what we need to do defensively and we let our offense come. We have had different game plans. We have gone in wanting to slow it down and gone in wanting to speed it up. I think for us it’s important that we do what we do first. And if we need to go to Plan B, we have that in our arsenal. It’s important that our team focuses in on what has made us successful this year.
Links to Recent Stories About NC State Women’s Basketball
As the ACC tournament starts, there has been an emergence of stories about the Wolfpack. Here is a list of links to some of those stories:
- Greensboro News & Record: “A Season of Hope after a Season of Despair”
- Raleigh News & Observer: “Harpers are a Coaching Marriage”
- Raleigh News & Observer: “Kastanek’s Hustle Gains Acclaim”
- Raleigh News & Observer: “Wolfpack battles height disadvantage”
- Technician: “Kastanek Experienced Beyond Her Years”
- Technician: “Wolfpack To Open ACC Tournament Tonight”