Lo Donato

Staff Writer

Women’s basketball opened its season against Furman on the road this past Friday. The ‘Cats started their 2015-16 season with a strong 69-51 win, avenging last year’s season-opening defeat (67-60) to the Paladins.

Hannah Early ’16 continues to be an impact player on the court for the Wildcats. She led the team in scoring during a record-setting junior season, averaging a career-best 14.4 points a game, and she also became the 17th player in program history to reach the 1,000-point plateau. She received the team’s Best Offensive Player award last season. Early is a fifth year senior after using her medical redshirt when she tore her ACL and meniscus during her freshman year. For her fifth and final season, she will be leading the ‘Cats as captain.

Off the court, Early is the student charter president for Access to Success (A2S), a nonprofit that empowers youth and their communities to achieve positive change through Christian-based athletic and educational programs in Nigeria. A few years ago, she traveled with A2S to Nigeria and led the first women’s basketball camp that A2S had hosted. She also is a part of the student charter for Young Elites, which is a nonprofit that provides free expert leadership training for high school girls in the Lake Norman area.

Early sat down with the Davidsonian to discuss her career and this season.

What is your role on the team this year, and how is your leadership going to shape this season?

This year I am a captain on the team, which is a huge role to play. As a leader, my job is to encourage and inspire my teammates. My leadership plays a role not only in how I act toward my teammates, but also how I play on the court. I must lead by example. Specifically, this means scoring and also being a defensive presence. I also must communicate on both ends of the floor.

How do you inspire yourself and your teammates day in and day out? Who do you play for? What motivates you?

Our team is really close so we all inspire each other. We know that last year was a tough transition for us, but I truly feel like we have what it takes to compete in the A-10 all season long. First, I play for God. He is the reason I play and the reason I play to win. God has given me the gifts that I have to play this sport and has given me the opportunity to use these gifts to point others to him. Second, I play for my teammates. I may miss shots or let them down with a bad decision, but I know that they’ve always got my back, so I need to have theirs. By the time the season starts, we’ve gone through summer camp together, six weeks of preseason, and six weeks of straight practice. It would be a slap in the face to them if they weren’t the reason I played.

How do you view your schedule this season?

We definitely have a tough nonconference schedule highlighted by Wake Forest, NC State, James Madison and Michigan State (who we play at home!). Although these are tough opponents, they’re also very win-able games. The A-10 schedule is always tough and will be a dog fight every night. There is never an easy game in the A-10, and I love it!

What are your goals as a team this season on and off the court?

This season, our goal is to shock the world. Coming from last year, we know many people aren’t expecting much, if anything, from us. We have a lot of small goals that will help us do this, but ultimately, we want to defy the odds and shock a lot of people.

How are the new recruits going to add to the team’s dynamic?

Our freshmen have been great this year. They add a lot of energy and enthusiasm and also a ton of skill. The move to the A-10 has really helped us with recruiting, so we’ll really be able to see the benefits of that this year. They will definitely contribute a lot on the court, as well as off the court with team chemistry.

In the A-10 Coaches Preseason Poll, the ‘Cats were picked to finish 14th. The win at Furman marked the start of seven straight road games coming up. After a 77-58 loss to Wake Forest last night, they take on N.C State on Monday.