WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - By the end of the 2015-2016 basketball season, Adell Harris' women's basketball team was down to six players, between injuries, dismissals, and redshirts. It was far from ideal for a UNCW team that had experienced much more success in the past.
"Your car breaks down, to know that you have money to fix it, feels really good. I'm going to play a basketball game and I have six players – that doesn't feel great," Harris said. "I knew once the final horn sounded in the CAA Tournament a year ago, I knew change was coming."
Change in this instance meant roster reinforcements -- four freshman, three junior college transfers, and a total of nine players who will suit up in teal for the first time this season. And aiding all the new faces is a proven leader on and off the court in Jasmine Steele.
"Jasmine Steele is our CFO – Chief Fun Officer," said Harris. "Her job is to connect the group."
Steele began her career at Alabama before landing at UNCW. Last season, she was one of the top scorers in conference play.
She's 5'1", yet never afraid to drive into the lane, take on taller defenders, and set the tone for how hard her team should play.
"On the court, I don't see myself as a small individual," Steele described. "I see us eye to eye, like we both put on our pants in the same way, we both do things the same way. I don't feel like height is a problem with me."
Height is not a problem, nor is scoring for one of the team's newest players, Lacey Suggs. The only local on the roster, she tallied more than 2,000 points for East Bladen. Now as a walk on, it's time to prove herself once again. That starts in practice, winning sprints, learning the system, doing whatever it takes to help the team.
"I have to show that I want to be here. I'm gonna bust my tail every day," said Suggs at UNCW's media day in early October. "I'm gonna show that I want to be here and give it all, and just show I'm trying my best."
And quickly, the former Eagle has made an impression on the Seahawk coaching staff.
"The kid is tough. Tough as nails," said Harris. "I compare her, my analogy, is she's like a farm girl. Like she's raised on a farm, had to wake up every morning at 5 a.m., and milk cows. That's how she works, and I love it, because it's contagious. I mean, she's out here fighting for something. I think she'll be rewarded for it. She's got to improve like anybody else, but she is not low on toughness, and she is not low on work ethic."
Whether a more complete lineup will equate to more wins is up in the air but there's substance behind this early season optimism. And their CFO, Steele, hopes the fun will make it to March.
"I'm looking to play in the championship game, the CAA Championship game," she said.