Raven Johnson

Raven Johnson is a sophomore guard on the ECU Women's Basketball team.

For a lot of basketball teams, there is a big difference between the usual starting five players and the players who come off of the bench behind them. East Carolina University’s women’s basketball head coach Heather Macy believes her team is not one of those teams.

“I think that’s a loosely used term, the term ‘bench’ with our team,” Macy said. “We’ve got a lot of really good players and a very deep rotation and we’ve mixed up our starting lineups a ton.”

Of the 14 players on the roster, 11 different players average at least 12 minutes per game and have logged at least 282 total minutes throughout the course of the season. Out of those 11 players, 10 have started at least one game this season.

The Pirates have used several different starting lineups this season, including a different one in the last three games consecutively. Macy said she is proud of her players growing together, even while so many players are being interjected in and out of the lineup.

“Give the kids a lot of credit,” Macy said. “They understand that sometimes it’s personnel-based and sometimes it’s performance-based.”

Macy takes pride in her team’s performance on the court and on the go-to decisions her players make. In ECU’s game against the University of Cincinnati on Saturday, it saw all five starters score in double figures while Tuesday’s game against Wichita State again saw five players in double figures but not all scorers. Macy said she loves to see this happen, especially when it results in a victory.

Versatile is a word that comes up often when talking with members of the team, one of them being from junior guard Alex Frazier, who leads the team in both total minutes played and minutes per game. Frazier understands a deep team can play lineups with different strengths, such as height, speed or shooting. She said she believes it is these aspects that help ECU get through lineup changes.

“With our team we have a different variety of abilities,” Frazier said. “We are able to execute with different lineups and it allows us to be versatile versus any opponent that we come up against.”

While freshman guard Ariyana Williams leads the team with 9.7 points per game, she hardly does it alone. Senior center Thais Oliveira follows with 9.0 points per game, along with eight rotation players whose scoring average is between 4.6 and 6.8, good for only a 2.2 points per game difference.

Having such a deep roster gives a team a better chance at winning, as it can survive one player’s off night whenever it occurs. The Pirates have 10 different players who’ve been their leading scorer in a game this season, and according to Williams, there is always someone waiting to step up.

“I would say we are very versatile,” Williams said. “Say one person is just not hitting shots, we just fill in for each other when one person is not on their game.”

Further proving there is no disparity between the starters and the bench, the bench has outscored the starters four times this season. To compare to other teams, the ECU bench has outscored other teams’ benches in 18 of the 23 games so far. Junior forward Destiny Campbell believes there isn’t just one person or group who makes the team special.

“I think that everybody on the team brings a special part, we’re all so important to the team,” Campbell said.

Moving forward, Macy said she thinks it would be great for a consistent starting five to emerge and for players to grow in a consistent rotation pattern, but said she is still grateful for the unique depth she has been given this year.

“I’m just adapting and adjusting to our youth,” Macy said. “And just as they’re growing up, they’ve played more than 20 games now so you’re seeing more growth and you’re seeing that we really have a solid eight to nine players getting consistent minutes.”

ECU hopes to continue strong play throughout the roster, when it plays in at University of South Florida on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Coming off of big wins against Wichita State Tuesday and Southern Methodist University Saturday, ECU has won three of its last four games. The Pirates look for their longest winning streak since winning five-straight beating Rider University on Nov. 26, University of North Carolina at Charlotte on Nov. 30, Norfolk State Dec. 2, Kennesaw State Dec. 4 and North Carolina Central Dec. 14.

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