ACC notes: Assistant coaching carousel, Duke decommitments

Alex Sharp turns pro. Muriel Page goes to Georgia Tech. Simon Harris leaves N.C. State. Kara Lawson deals with staff hires and inherited recruits.

Welcome back to All in the Game, y’all.

After traveling, taking care of wedding things and writing elsewhere, the newsletter is back.

Last week over at The Next, I went long on Duke hiring Kara Lawson, what it means and what we can expect from her. I also have a story there on Lawson hiring Tia Jackson to her staff.

I’ve also been writing more recently at Against All Enemies, SB Nation’s blog for Service Academies. And at WUNC, I’ve been tracking Confederate monuments that have been removed in North Carolina since the death of George Floyd.

Anyways — onto this week’s batch of ACC and women’s basketball notes.


New assistant at Georgia Tech

Murriel Page will be joining Nell Fortner’s staff at Georgia Tech as an assistant coach. All in the Game reported the news on July 14 after hearing from a source close to the situation. The Yellow Jackets confirmed the hire on Wednesday.

Page was most recently at Central Michigan, helping the Chippewas win 23 or more games in each of her four seasons on the bench. CMU made a run to the Sweet 16 in 2018.

She was previously an assistant at her alma mater, Florida, for seven seasons. The Gators made the NCAA tournament in three of those campaigns. As a player at Florida, Page was a two-time All-SEC selection and an All-American in 1998. She is second all-time in points and rebounds in Gainesville.

Page played 11 WNBA seasons for the Washington Mystics and LA Sparks. She fills the vacancy on Fortner’s staff left open by Brandy Manning, who went to Old Dominion to become the top assistant on Delisha Milton-Jones’ first-year staff.

The Yellow Jackets finished 20-11 (10-8 ACC) in Fortner’s first year on the job in Atlanta. Georgia Tech made a run to the ACC Tournament quarterfinals and notched regular season victories over No. 17 Florida State, No. 4 N.C. State, Wisconsin and Georgia.

Duke decommitments

Four class of 2021 players who had previously verbally committed to Duke while Joanne P. McCallie was the head coach decommitted from the school and reopened their recruitment in the past week. They are Olivia Pollerd, Brooklyn Rewers, Lauren Walker and Marisa Davis-Jones.

And apparently, former Oregon forward Lucy Cochrane was also committed to Duke as a transfer, though she and the Blue Devils did not publicize it. She decommitted as well.

Davis-Jones was the lone ESPN Top 100 recruit that McCallie had landed in the 2021 class. She told All in the Game that she spoke with new Duke head coach Kara Lawson before making her decision.

“She is actually the reason why I made the decision,” Davis-Jones said. “She chose to go a different route and so did I.”

A 6-foot-1 wing from Surprise, Arizona, Davis-Jones said she had offers from more than 30 schools before committing to Duke, including Oregon State, Louisville, Oregon, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Clemson, UCLA and Arizona. Davis-Jones’ mother told AZCentral.com that she is still open to playing in the ACC.

This is no doubt a tough look for Duke as it starts a new era. However, it’s also understandable that Lawson wanted to fill her first recruiting class with her own players, not inherited ones from McCallie.

Duke currently has six open scholarship spots for the 2021-22 season.

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Around the ACC

  • N.C. State picked up a commitment from 2021 five-star recruit Sophie Hart last week. A 6-foot-4 center, Hart could be the heir-apparent to Elissa Cunane as the Wolfpack’s go-to inside scorer and rim protector. The native of Farmington, Minnesota is ranked as the 40th best player in the 2021 class by ESPN. She told the Star Tribune that the Wolfpack are “a post-oriented offense and I really like their coaching staff.” Hart also had offers from about 20 other schools, including Minnesota.

  • Former Wake Forest forward Alex Sharp has signed a professional contract in Australia with the Perth Lynx. A native of Melbourne, Australia, the 6-foot-1 Sharp finished her Wake Forest career this past season with 921 rebounds, good enough for third in program history. She averaged 12.3 points per-game as a senior.

  • N.C. State has an opening on its staff after former assistant coach Simon Harris joined Kevin McGuff’s staff at Ohio State last week. Harris, an N.C. State alum and former Wolfpack men’s player, spent two seasons on Wes Moore’s staff. In each, the Wolfpack finished the season ranked inside the Top 10 of the AP Poll.

  • Florida State added a new assistant coach recently, bringing former player Morgan Toles back into the fold. A Fayetteville, Georgia native, Toles played at FSU and Auburn and had a +2.4 assist-turnover ratio as a Seminole senior. She was most recently an assistant coach at Kent State. Toles replaces JC Carter, who left FSU to become associate head coach at UT Arlington.

  • The Florida State athletic department is reducing its budget by 20 percent due to the coronavirus. According to ESPN, women’s basketball head coach Sue Semrau will take a 10 percent pay cut.

  • Whenever international basketball resumes, expect to see Syracuse’s Tiana Mangakahia suiting up for Australia. A year out from the postponed Tokyo Olympics, she’s on Sandy Brondello’s latest roster for the senior national team.

  • We could also see another rising ACC star in Tokyo in Wake Forest’s Ivana Raca, who has been training with the Serbian senior national team. The country has already qualified for the Olympics. Raca was an All-ACC second team and All-ACC Tournament first team selection this past season. She was fifth in the conference in scoring with 17.2 points per-game.

  • Courtney Banghart did a Q&A with the Daily Tar Heel on all things COVID-19 and getting players back on campus. A sampling: “Everything’s optional. They don’t have to be here, and I told them that you’re not gonna lose your scholarship if you choose to stay home and get more information.”

  • Speaking of Banghart, she was a big reason why Stephanie Watts opted to return to UNC. Watts told Inside Carolina: “I'm extremely impressed (by Banghart), to say the least. She made it hard for me to leave in the first place because of her resume, who she is, how sharp of a coach she is, and just how great of a person she is.”

  • Watts also told Packer and Durham: “When I had the chance to come back and play for Coach Banghart, that was something I just couldn’t turn down.”

  • Ariel Stephenson, a 1,000-point scorer for Wake Forest, is joining the coaching staff at George Washington as a graduate assistant. The native of Prince George, Virginia was an All-ACC Freshman selection in 2016.

  • Nina King, Duke’s deputy athletic director, is also the committee chair for the 2021 NCAA women’s basketball tournament. At The Next, she chats with CERTIFIED BRACKETOLOGIST Russell Steinberg about options for the upcoming tournament.

  • According to this story from the Knoxville News Sentinel, Kara Lawson could continue as a University of Tennessee trustee while she is the head coach at Duke.

  • Here’s our first look at Petra Holešínská in Carolina Blue:

Spanning the South

  • Georgia State has landed Kentucky transfer Deasia Merrill. A native of Villa Rica, Georgia, she will sit out the 2020-21 season and have four years of eligibility remaining. She missed her freshman season at Kentucky due to injury. The 6-foot-1 Merrill was tabbed as the 66th best player in the 2019 class by ESPN.

  • At the Lady Bulldogs Report, Brandon Sudge’s latest is on UGA’s sophomores and how they might impact the team this season. He also has an important read on Black female coaches in women’s college basketball.

  • UNC Asheville has hired former Florida player Dee Anderson as an assistant coach. She was most recently at Clemson as a graduate assistant for two seasons.

  • Quinzia Fulmore, a 6-foot-3 2021 forward from Greensboro, North Carolina, announced her commitment to Towson. She also had an offer from N.C. A&T.

  • After a three-season stint at UNC-Wilmington, Brittany Morris is joining the staff at East Carolina. The former Seton Hall player has also previously worked at N.C. State and Virginia Tech.

Elsewhere in women’s basketball

  • Coppin State has hired Laura Harper as its next head women’s basketball coach, announcing the move on Monday. For Coppin, a program that hasn’t been dancing since 2008, the hire seems like an excellent one. Harper, 34, was a star at nearby University of Maryland, leading the Terps to a national championship in 2006. She was the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player that year. After a playing career that included stops in the WNBA, Turkey, Italy and Russia, she became a coach, working as an assistant at Loyola Maryland, High Point, George Washington and Florida. She was most recently the head coach at Montverde Academy in Florida. Landing a first-time head coach who has studied under Brenda Frese and Jennifer Rizzotti is a great get for Coppin.

  • For S.I., Bria Felicien writes about the WNBA Draft picks who are getting a second chance in the Wubble.

  • This Jackie Powell story on Sabrina Ionescu at The Next is worth your time.

  • Always read Howard Megdal. For The IX, he writes on Elena Delle Donne situation and the pickle the WNBA was in.

  • Here’s Washington Post columnist Jerry Brewer on Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler: “She betrayed the WNBA, using its support of Black Lives Matter to manufacture a straw man for her political pandering. In a contemptible display of selfishness and desperation, she just wants a fight.”

  • At The Next, Bailey Johnson has more on the Dream’s response to Loeffler.

  • Six West Virginia women’s basketball players tested positive for COVID-19, leading to preseason workouts to be postponed.

  • The latest graduate transfer on the market is Jordan Walker, who leaves Western Michigan with two years of eligibility left. According to MLive.com, the 2017 Michigan Miss Basketball holds offers from Clemson and Pitt among ACC schools, and also Baylor, Tennessee and Texas Tech. A 5-foot-8 guard, she averaged 16 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per-game for the Broncos last season.

  • At Navy, first-year head coach Tim Taylor has unveiled his first freshman class. The group includes forward Morganne Andrews (Martinsburg, West Virginia), guard Kristina Donza (Jackson, New Jersey) and wing Sydne Watts (Canton, Georgia).

Also read

  • Read as much as you can about the late John Lewis. I recommend this Bitter Southerner piece and the AJC’s obit by Tamar Hallerman.

  • Hedge funds should not own newspapers. This story on the last newspaper reporter in Pottstown, Pennsylvania explains why.

  • I just barely remember watching Cal Ripken Jr. play — I was 3 when he broke the record and 9 when he retired. So, in my lifetime, the 2012-2016 Orioles are the best era of Baltimore baseball. I loved those teams and cherished trips to see them at Camden Yards. The team was unceremoniously dismantled quickly in 2018 via trades and firings. Recently at the Athletic, Brittany Ghiroli — who covered those O’s for MLB.com — wrote about what that season was like for her and the Orioles.

  • Ted Shockley has a hankering for a Stewart Sandwich. I have never actually consumed one of these convenient store delights of the past, but I felt like I did after reading this.

  • At Against All Enemies, I wrote about Navy football’s 2020 offense, and why experience elsewhere should help cover-up mistakes of a first-time starter at quarterback.

Stay safe. Y’all be good.

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“Game the same. Just got more fierce.”


Mitchell Northam is an award-winning journalist based in North Carolina. He grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and is a graduate of Salisbury University. He is a digital producer at WUNC, and his work has also been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Orlando Sentinel, SB Nation, NCAA.com, the Delmarva Daily Times, Sports Illustrated, Pittsburgh Sports Now and elsewhere. He is a member of APSE, NWSLMA and USBWA. He’s on Twitter @primetimeMitch. More of his work can be found at MuckRack.