South Charlotte

Chargers hope to continue winning tradition

Before this season, Providence Day varsity girls' basketball coach Josh Springer had shirts printed up and passed them out to all the players, from the middle school teams to varsity.

On the front it listed the years of each of Providence Day's nine state titles.

The Chargers are building a strong tradition in south Charlotte and Springer wants everyone in the program to know it.

"Our vision is to be the best girls' program in North Carolina and one of the best in the Southeast," said Springer, 30, who is in his fourth year coaching the team. He took over the program after Barbara Nelson, who compiled a 437-176 record and won seven state titles in 21 seasons at Providence Day, left to coach at Wingate University.

The Chargers make a good case to be the top program in the state, winning five of the last six state N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A titles, including 2010.

But if they want to repeat, the Chargers will have to do it with several new faces.

The Chargers lost four seniors from last year's team, including all-state selection Nneka Anuruonye, who now plays at UNCG. The team is much younger this year with just one senior and four freshman on the 10-player roster.

While they may lack experience, Providence Day has a lot of talent and size on the squad this year.

Junior Tiffany Mitchell (5-foot-11) was a finalist for the U17 national team last year and scored 30 points in the 2010 state title game after coming back from an ACL injury. She is a two-time all state selection and has gotten offers from several Division I schools including Wake Forest, Clemson, Georgia Tech and UNC Chapel Hill.

"She won't let us lose," said Springer. "She's dying to be the best."

Sarah Burnick, a 5-foot-10 forward, is the lone senior on the team and will be a team captain with Mitchell this year. Springer said Burnick is the kind of player who won't make headlines, but does the little things and the intangibles that really help the team.

"She's the glue that holds our team together," he said.

Olivia Parker, a 6-foot-1 junior transfer from Harding, will add size and rebounding inside and join 6-foot junior Dacia Thompson as a physical presence in the paint. At 6-foot-3, freshman Jatarie White will add even more size and talent inside.

"She's a player, she's special," said Springer of White, who he said also can shoot from about 17 feet and shoots a high percentage around the basket.

Freshman Nikyah Morgan (5-foot-4) should also make an instant impact on the team as one of the best perimeter shooters. Sophomore point guard Jada Brayboy started as a freshman and leads the Chargers in transition on the court.

Springer emphasizes the importance of role players on the team, which is evident in the team's motto, "It's not about me."

Burnick and Mitchell understand their role as the two most experienced players.

"I know Coach Springer expects a lot of me," said Burnick. "I know what he wants of us and I just need to relay that message to everyone else."

Mitchell said she knows it may take time to get the freshman comfortable in the system, but she thinks they will help the team. The freshman have already proven they can win, going 19-0 on the eighth grade team last year.

But playing on varsity is very different, said Springer. The freshmen will have to get comfortable in the system quickly since Providence Day opens their season against Oak Hill Academy, one of the top girls' basketball programs in Virginia.

"That's a great challenge for us," said Springer. "Too many coaches are afraid to risk losing the game. ... Our kids get up to play the best around."

Mitchell welcomes the early challenge. "If we lose we see the things we need to work on," she said. "If we win we see how hard we've worked."

Springer "gives us the tough teams on purpose," said Brunick. "He doesn't want to give us any breaks."

Expectations are high for the team because of it's success over the years, but Springer said that each team is different and you can't compare it to past teams.

"It doesn't matter what we did last year," he said. "As of right now we're 0-0."

Mitchell knows that other teams will be playing even harder when they face Providence Day.

"There is a bulls-eye on our back," said Mitchell. "We have to come out ready to play."