ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Western Carolina women’s basketball head coach Kiley Hill participated in the 2019 Southern Conference Basketball Tip-Off event held in at the Renaissance Hotel in Asheville on Monday.

In the SoCon preseason poll introduced at the event’s luncheon, Catamount women’s basketball was picked to finish eighth by the coaches and media. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their teams or student-athletes as part of the balloting.

“I will borrow a line from ‘Talladega Nights’ when Ricky Bobby’s dad told him ‘If you ain’t first you’re last,” said Hill with a smirk. “We see this as a challenge and the chance to show fans what we can do and what we are made of.”

Furman and Mercer split the vote in the coaches and media poll on who would win the league with Furman chosen by the coaches and Mercer by the media while the Paladins were tabbed second by the media. 

 Wofford was the pick for second place by the coaches and fifth by the media. ETSU was selected fourth by the coaches and the media while UNCG came in fifth in the coaches’ poll and sixth in the media poll. Chattanooga took sixth in the coaches’ poll and third in the media poll.  

Samford, under the direction of first-year head coach Carley Kuhns, took seventh in both the coaches and media polls. Western Carolina was picked eighth in both polls, earning seven points in the coaches’ poll and 19 from the media.

The Catamounts did not place a player on the preseason all-conference list but sophomore Jewel Smalls is the highlight of the returning players for the 2019-20 season for WCU. 

Smalls was named 2019 Southern Conference Freshman of the Year by the media, earned a spot on the All-Freshman team and was also a Third Team All-Conference selection by the media. She scored 330 points as a freshman marking the second-most points scored by a Western Carolina women’s basketball freshman in program history. She led the team averaging 11 points per game scoring in double figures 16 times playing in all 30 games. She concluded the season scoring in double figures in each of the final six games. 

“Jewel has been doing some great things for us as team practice began,” Hill said. “She is an integral piece of the puzzle for us.”

A hidden gem for Western Carolina is the return of redshirt junior Lauren LaPlant who sat out last season (2018-19) due to injury. As a sophomore, in 2017-18m LaPlant played in a total of 24 games scoring a season-best 192 total points and averaged eight points per game. She also ended that year ranked second on the team in made three-pointers with 32.

Lauren LaPlant has been fabulous after coming off an injury last year,” Hill admitted. “She has a high basketball IQ and gets it.”

Western Carolina opens the 2019-20 season Nov. 5 hosting UVA-Wise in Hill’s first game at the helm of the Catamount women’s basketball program. 

Men’s and women's basketball season tickets are on sale now. For ticketing information call the Catamount Ticket Office at (828) 227-2401. Tickets can also be purchased online at


2019-20 Preseason Southern Conference Coaches Poll

Team (1st-place votes)              Total

1. Furman (6)                              48

2. Wofford (1)                              39

3. Mercer (1)                               38

4. ETSU                                      31

5. UNCG                                     23

6. Chattanooga                           21

7. Samford                                  17

8. Western Carolina                      7



2019-20 Preseason Player of the Year

Chloe Wanink, R-Sr., G, Wofford


2019-20 Preseason All-Southern Conference Team

Erica Haynes-Overton, Jr., G, ETSU

Le’Jzae Davidson, Sr., G, Furman

Celena Taborn, Jr., C, Furman

Shannon Titus, Jr., G/F, Mercer

Nadine Soliman, Sr., G, UNCG

Te’Ja Twitty, Sr., G/F, UNCG

Lakelyn Bouldin, Sr., G, Chattanooga

Eboni Williams, So., F, Chattanooga

Da’Ja Green, Jr., G, Wofford

Chloe Wanink, R-Sr., G, Wofford



2019-20 Preseason Southern Conference Media Poll

Team (1st-place votes)              Total

1. Mercer (8)                             99

2. Furman (5)                            90

3. Chattanooga (1)                    85

4. ETSU                                    78

5. Wofford                                 58

6. UNCG                                   46

7. Samford                                29

8. Western Carolina                 19