Women’s starters return for new season

Bradley Heltzel, Reporter

Although their personal experiences, journeys to Marshall, University and overall personalities will remain different, returning basketball starters Norrisha Victrum, Leah Scott and Chukwuka Ezeigbo share a common bond heading into the 2014-2015 season.

Victrum, Scott and Ezeigbo will return as the three remaining starters from last year’s squad and Nov. 14th. They will begin a new chapter as individuals and as a united threesome as they take the court for the opening tip in the Herd’s first game of the season at Rhode Island.

All three players made a sizeable impact on last year’s team, as evidenced by their statistical rankings on the team. Victrum, a junior point guard, led the team in assists, steals and minutes as a sophomore last season. Scott, senior wing player, led the team in scoring last season at 11.7 PPG and finished second in assists as a junior transfer. And Ezeigbo, senior center, finished last season with the highest shooting percentage on the team and tied for the team lead in rebounding.

The statistics cannot quantify the true makeup of the three women as players and as people; however, their makeup has allowed them to overcome personal obstacles, adjust to new situations and embrace their personalities, which has powered their success at Marshall.

After her distinguished high school career, Victrum encountered a few surprises during her recruiting process and first year at Marshall. Victrum was recruited by former Marshall head coach Royce Chadwick, but Chadwick resigned in the offseason before Victrum’s freshman season and was replaced by current head coach Matt Daniel.

Scott’s journey to Marshall saw her relocate within three different states, three different schools and three different programs in three years in a pursuit to find the optimal situation.

After graduating from Inkster High School in Inkster, Michigan, Scott followed her hometown roots and attended the University of Central Michigan as a freshman. However, after just one season and very little playing time, Scott transferred to Iowa Western Community College where she averaged 13.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG and 2.6 APG. Scott’s success playing junior collegiate (JUCO) basketball helped her acquire new recruitments from colleges that were not interested when she was initially coming out of high school.

“I got new recruitments, so it helped me rebuild my empire and go to D-I coming out of JUCO” Scott said.

One of those new recruitments was from Daniel and Scott was on the move again, this time for southern West Virginia and Marshall University.

Scott said going through the three schools in three years was difficult because year after year she was taking on the task of becoming acclimated to new coaches and teammates. However, throughout the process Scott said she kept an open mind and understood everyone has varied personalities and people will always be different. After last year’s success and her confessed optimism for this season, perhaps Scott has finally found the right situation here at Marshall.

Ezeigbo is the veteran member of the Marshall women’s basketball program as she enters her senior season. Not only is Ezeigbo the only senior on the Herd’s roster who has played each of the past three seasons at Marshall, but she has actually been a part of the program longer than the entire coaching staff as well.

Ezeigbo came to Marshall as a freshman for the 2011-2012 season when Chadwick was still the head coach, and she is the only current player to have played under Chadwick.

With Chadwick’s resignation and the hiring of Daniel, Ezeigbo was forced to make an adjustment in her overall approach to  the game after just one season. “I was disappointed when he [Chadwick] left because my first year I didn’t get to play much, but in my second year I was ready to prove something,” Ezeigbo said. “I had prepared myself mentally forwhat he expected from me.”

However, Ezeigbo said she quickly altered her mindset and told herself Daniel was a new opportunity and her best approach was to make the best of it. Ezeigbo said Daniel and Chadwick’s coaching styles are similar, but pointed out that Daniel is constantly on the go, urging players to play through their mistakes, whereas Chadwick would stop players and talk about their mistakes.

Ezeigbo has seen more than just coaches come and go during her four years at Marshall, she has also watched teammates graduate and move on and new players join the program. Consider that all 17 of Ezeigbo’s teammates from her freshman year have left the Marshall program at some point during her four seasons. Also consider that Victrum is the only other teammate in Ezeigbo’s first two seasons who is still a member of the team.

Roster turnover can be difficult on a collegiate athlete to build chemistry and form relationships to perform better on the court as a team.

“Going through the transition with different players and having to make new chemistry with new people was something that took some time,” Ezeigbo said. “But after a while it started to flow together to the point now where we are all comfortable with each other on and off the court.”

All three players have endured individual challenges during their basketball journeys that have led them to Marshall, but heading into the season Victrum, Scott and Ezeigbo share a vision including a successful season and a high ranking in the final standings of CUSA.

Scott and Victrum were both adamant that the team will finish well above its preseason projection of finishing last in the conference.

“We are going to prove everybody wrong this year,” Victrum said. “I think we’re going to be a top three team in the conference, if not number one.”

Ezeigbo said she believes the team can win the conference outright if it embraces Daniel’s message to take everything one game and one possession at a time.

Bradley Heltzel can be contacted at heltzel@ marshall.edu.