NORFOLK (WAVY) – Through her first two seasons at Norfolk State, Kayla Roberts didn’t have much to smile about, at least from a wins-and-losses perspective.
The Spartans finished 14-16 her freshman year, and could only manage three wins over the course of her sophomore season last year. This season, for the first time in her career, life on the court has been a blast.
“It’s just like when you have a bad storm, and there’s a lot of gray clouds and stuff, it’s just like the clouds went away and the sun came out,” said Roberts, who’s helped lead one of the best turnarounds in all of women’s college basketball.
Norfolk State (12-10, 7-3 Mid Eastern Athletic Conference) is not only playing winning basketball, they boast the top defensive unit in the MEAC, and are just two games back of first place Bethune-Cookman in the conference standings.
The NCAA record for the largest win-total turnaround was Valparaiso’s 17 games. Barring an incredible run deep into the postseason, the Spartans will fall short of that, but NSU’s current run is “a little shocking,” even to the Spartans’ head coach.
“I felt like coming into this year we would have a good basketball team,” said Larr Vickers, who took over the Spartans program last season. “I felt like we would be middle of the pack, but a little above.”
Not only have they played far above expectation, they lead the MEAC in scoring defense, scoring margin, field goal percentage defense, 3-point shooting defense, and blocked shots.
“We just come out, every game, we put our hard hats on,” said Vickers, who was an assistant for the NSU men’s squad that won the MEAC Tournament and shocked the 3-seed Missouri in the NCAA Tournament. He’s made his team fully aware of their potential, and what they will be playing for once the postseason at Scope rolls around.
“Some days I’ll wear my men’s championship ring, so they get a feel for them, so they can see which ones they like, and which ones we’re going to order at the end of the season,” said Vickers. He made sure to mention…”if we win.”