Former UConn Husky Katie Lou Samuelson Joins Vanderbilt Women’s Basketball Staff

Katie Lou Samuelson. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Katie Lou Samuelson, one of the most decorated players in recent women’s college basketball history, has joined Vanderbilt’s women’s basketball staff as the program’s Director of Player Development.

“I truly could not be more excited to welcome Katie Lou to our staff,” head coach Shea Ralph says. “Her passion and knowledge for the game of basketball are unmatched. She is one of the hardest-working, most competitive players I have ever coached. She has excelled at every level in our sport, starting with championships in college and now making a name for herself in the WNBA and overseas as a standout professional.” Ralph adds, “She has true life experience in ‘maximizing your potential,’ which is the goal and mission for every person associated with this program.”

As Director of Player Development, Samuelson will assist the women’s basketball staff in a non-coaching capacity in all areas of the program, including game preparation, player development and on-campus recruiting. She will remain an active member of the Los Angeles Sparks during the WNBA season while still performing her duties, and return to Nashville with the Commodores during the WNBA offseason.

Samuelson is about to enter her fifth season in the WNBA after averaging a career-high 9.7 points and 3.0 rebounds per game for the Sparks in 2022, her first with the franchise. She scored in double figures in 18 of 32 games, highlighted by a career-best 15 against the Washington Mystics in last August. A first-round draft pick—going fourth overall to the Chicago Sky in 2019—Samuelson has also played for the Dallas Wings and Seattle Storm while also helping lead Perfumerías Avenida to the 2021 Euroleague Final and a Spanish league championship during her professional career.

“Lou is a natural leader and visionary on the court. I have no doubt that she will bring that same level of dedication and intensity to our students-athletes here at Vanderbilt as director of player development,” continues Ralph. “Beyond her basketball ability, she is an amazing person and a great role model. Katie Lou Samuelson’s consistent presence here on and off the court will elevate our program in every way.”

A two-time first-team All-American and the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year in both 2017-18, Samuelson became the 10th student-athlete in Connecticut’s history to record 2,000 points in a career before ending her time with the program fourth on the Huskies’ all-time scoring list. She was named the ESPNW national Freshman of the Year and was selected to the AAC All-Freshman Team in 2016 after helping UConn win the national championship.

Samuelson earned national Player-of-the-Year honors from Gatorade, USA Today, McDonald’s, WBCA and Naismith at the high school level.

Internationally, Samuelson has represented the United States at various competitions dating back to 2013 when she was a was part of a team that claimed the FIBA Americas U16 championship. In 2019, she was a member of the USA FIBA AmeriCup team that won a gold medal, and she was named to the country’s 3×3 Olympic qualifying team in advance of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics but was unable to participate due to illness.

College Corner: Fisk Women’s Gymnastics, Belmont’s Cade Tyson, Vanderbilt Baseball

Fisk Women’s Gymnastics Team Participates In Official NCAA Meet, Makes History

Fisk Women’s Gymnastics Team. Photo: Courtesy of Fisk University

The Inaugural Fisk Women’s Gymnastics Team made history after participating in their first official meet in Las Vegas on Jan. 6-7, becoming the first HBCU women’s gymnastics team to perform at the NCAA level.

The Super 16 event is the largest collegiate gymnastics event showcasing more than 300 collegiate athletes from universities all across the country. Fisk competed in Session No. 1 on Jan. 6 against Washington, Southern Utah and North Carolina.

Fisk finished fourth with an overall score of 186.700. Freshman Morgan Price placed first in the vault with a score of 9.900.


Belmont’s Cade Tyson Named MVC Newcomer Of The Week

Cade Tyson. Photo: Courtesy of Belmont Athletics

Belmont men’s basketball freshman Cade Tyson has been named Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Newcomer of the Week. He leads the MVC in scoring among freshmen.

Tyson averaged 14.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game this past week as Belmont defeated UIC and Missouri State. The Monroe, North Carolina native had a career-high 20 points, three rebounds and two steals against Missouri State. He had eight points, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots at UIC.

Belmont returns to game action Tuesday (Jan. 10) at Valparaiso.

Vanderbilt’s Enrique Bradfield Jr., Carter Holton Named Preseason All-Americans

Pictured (top): Enrique Bradfield Jr.; (bottom): Carter Holton. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt baseball standouts, outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. and pitcher Carter Holton, earned preseason All-America recognition from Perfect Game. Bradfield was named to the second team while Holton was named to the third team.

Bradfield was a consensus All-American in his sophomore campaign in 2022. He posted a .317 average with eight home runs and 36 RBIs while leading the SEC, and ranked second nationally in stolen bases, going 46-for-46 on the season. He also led the SEC with five triples and earned first team All-SEC honors.

Holton made an immediate impact as a freshman in 2022. The southpaw earned unanimous Freshman All-American recognition and was Freshman All-SEC. Holton ranked sixth in the SEC with a 3.14 ERA and compiled an 8-4 record with a pair of complete games. His 97 strikeouts were second-most on the team.

The returning duo have also been named Collegiate Baseball preseason All-America.

Vanderbilt opens the 2023 season Feb. 17-19 at the College Baseball Showdown in Arlington, Texas.

Belmont’s Ben Sheppard Named MVC Player Of The Week

Ben Sheppard. Photo: Courtesy of Belmont Athletics

Belmont University men’s basketball senior Ben Sheppard has been named Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Player of the Week, after having brilliant performances against Trevecca Nazarene and MTSU.

Sheppard averaged 24.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game on 58 percent shooting last week. He led the Bruins to a 83-53 win against Trevecca, and hit the buzzer beater at the end of regulation against MTSU, which Belmont would go on to lose.

The Atlanta native scored a season-high 33 points vs. Middle Tennessee, which included eight 3-point field goals and 7-for-7 to open. Sheppard’s eighth 3-pointer was the dramatic shot to force overtime.

Sheppard ranks among MVC leaders in seven statistical categories, including second in points per game (20.6), fifth in field goal percentage (.497), sixth in assists per game (3.6) and eighth in steals per game (1.5).

The senior was school’s top scorer last season and is on the same path this year as he looks to help mentor a lot of young talent at Belmont. He and teammate Drew Friberg, who transferred from Princeton, are the nation’s top 3-point shooting duo (through games played Dec. 11).

Belmont returns to action when they head to Chattanooga on Dec. 18.

Blue Raiders To Celebrate Murphy Center’s 50th Anniversary On Dec. 15

Murphy Center from 1972. Photo: Courtesy of MTSU Athletics

Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) is celebrating 50 years in the Murphy Center on Thursday, Dec. 15, when the Blue Raiders take on in-state foe Chattanooga at 6 p.m CT.

Fans will be treated to Replica Floor Rally Towels, 50th Anniversary Buttons, and a limited number of commemorative game tickets and souvenir programs, while the Blue Raiders will don throwback uniforms and warmups harking back to styles worn by the 1972-73 Blue Raiders that debuted the Murphy Center. Music throughout the night will focus on the various acts that have performed live in concert in the Glass House.

Members of both the MTSU and Vanderbilt men’s basketball teams that competed in the Murphy Center’s first ever game on Dec. 11, 1972 will be honored, with four of the five starters for the Blue Raiders on that day accompanying that night’s starting five during lineup introductions.

Throughout the first half, individuals essential to the Glass House’s history will be honored, including the late Bubber Murphy the Murphy Center’s namesake; Bill Smotherman, Charlie Pigg, Harold Smith and Jim Simpson, who helped open the doors five decades ago; and the late Monte Hale and Coach Jimmy Earle, who the arena is named after.

Halftime will honor every member of the 1972-1973 MTSU and Vanderbilt men’s basketball teams, as well as their coaches and support staff in attendance. Fans will also see a sneak peak of Inside the Glass House, a documentary on the Murphy Center’s 50th anniversary that will debut after the game’s conclusion later that evening.

The second half will feature highlights of the MTSU track program, including the plethora of athletes who have run on the Murphy Center track over the decades. Sage Glass, the company whose automated tinting glass was installed during the Murphy Center’s Glass Replacement project this summer, will also be recognized, followed by the latest updates on the Build Blue project.

Tickets are still available at a retro throwback price of just $4 in Sections A, J, K, and T.

Former Vandy Star Carolyn Peck To Be Inducted Into Women’s Basketball Hall Of Fame

Carolyn Peck. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Former Vanderbilt women’s basketball player Carolyn Peck is set to be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2023. Selected for inclusion in the class as a coach, she will be honored at the organization’s annual induction ceremony on April 29 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

She was named the Naismith College Coach of the Year and Associated Press College Basketball Coach of the Year, and was also honored as the national Coach of the Year by both the Women’s basketball Coaches Association and United States Basketball Writers Association in 1999 after leading Purdue to the NCAA Tournament championship–still the only national title in the sport for a Big Ten team.

In two seasons, Peck guided the Boilermakers to a 57-11 record overall, including a 26-6 mark in league play. She would go on to coach two seasons with the WNBA’s Orlando Miracle and at the University of Florida from 2002-07, where she helped the Gators to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances.

Peck scored 1,240 points and recorded 679 rebounds during her four-year career with the Commodores from 1985-88, earning induction into Vandy’s Hall of Fame in 2013. She also served on the Dores’ coaching staff as an assistant coach during the 2016-17 and ’17-18 seasons.

SEC, ACC & ESPN Announce Men’s And Women’s Basketball Challenges Starting In 2023

The Southeastern Conference (SEC), Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and ESPN have announced the formation of the ACC/SEC Challenge for men’s and women’s basketball. It will begin as part of the 2023-24 season.

ACC and SEC teams will square off as part of the new annual challenge–one in men’s basketball and one in women’s basketball. Each one of the 28 games (30 starting in 2025-26) will be carried on an ESPN platform, and each conference will host an equal number of home games. Matchups and game times will be announced at a later date.

This new format will allow fans to see NCAA Tournament style games with SEC teams, such as Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina and Auburn, face the likes of Duke, North Carolina, NC State and Syracuse.

“We are excited women’s and men’s basketball student-athletes will have the opportunity to compete with their colleagues from the ACC as we initiate a new Basketball Challenge experience,” says SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “I appreciate the collaboration of Jim Phillips and the ACC members, along with our broadcast partner ESPN, to make possible the SEC/ACC Basketball Challenge which will provide our fans with exciting basketball early in the 2023-24 season. I also thank the Big 12 for the many great challenge games we experienced together in past years.”

For SEC men’s basketball, the onset of the challenge with the ACC brings an end to a challenge with the Big 12 which began in the 2013-14 season. The 10th SEC-Big 12 Challenge will take place Jan. 28, 2023. SEC women’s basketball conducted a challenge with the Big 12 from 2014 to 2021.

“The future ACC-SEC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Challenges will be outstanding events for our student-athletes, member institutions and fans,” says ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips, Ph.D. “The SEC, led by Greg Sankey, and our partners at ESPN have been terrific, and there’s great excitement for the first annual ACC/SEC Challenge next season. As part of this announcement, we’d like to acknowledge the Big Ten for its partnership on the ACC/B1G Challenge that spanned more than 20 years.”

The creation of the ACC/SEC Challenge marks the end of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which ESPN established with the two conferences in 1999 as a first-of-its-kind event. The final installment of the 23-year-old event, and the 15th edition of the ACC/Big Ten Women’s Challenge, will take place this week.

“We look forward to showcasing the talented men’s and women’s programs throughout the ACC and SEC in the years ahead through this exciting new collaboration with both conferences,” says Nick Dawson, ESPN Vice President, Programming. “Since establishing the very first interconference challenge in 1999, these events have been a staple of our college basketball schedule for more than two decades. We thank both the Big Ten and Big 12 for their partnership in the final year of our existing events and look forward to finding more ways to creatively partner with both conferences in 2023-24 and beyond.”

Lipscomb Clinches Win Over Belmont, Ending Battle Of The Boulevard Drought

Photo: Courtesy of Lipscomb Athletics

The Lipscomb Bisons walked away from the 149th installment of the Battle of the Boulevard victorious, beating Belmont 77-75 in an exciting early season matchup at Allen Arena.

The game saw 16 lead changes and big performances by Belmont’s freshmen Cade Tyson and Ja’Kobi Gillespie, who scored 15 points and 12 points, respectively. Meanwhile, sophomore Bison Trae Benham helped lead the way for Lipscomb, scoring 21 points and having seven rebounds.

However, Jacob Ognacevic‘s layup with just one second left on the clock handed Lipscomb the win over their street sharing rival. Ognacevic came off the bench to score 16 points.

With the win, Lipscomb snaps a six-game losing streak to Belmont.

The first half was back and fourth with neither team running away, but two good free throws, a layup and a jumper for Lipscomb closed the half with a 37-34 lead.

Belmont opened the second half fast, going on a 12-2 run scored by Tyson, senior Ben Sheppard and graduate transfer Drew Friberg. Belmont took a 10-point lead with 14:40 left in the game, but great work by Benham and Ognacevic helped narrow the lead.

From there, neither team took more than a seven point lead. Lipscomb commanded with about four minutes left, forcing Belmont’s young team to play catch-up.

With the win, Lipscomb takes a 76-73 series lead all-time over the Bruins in one of the most historic local rivalries in all of college basketball.

Lipscomb, now with a 2-1 season, will head to South Bend, Indiana to face Notre Dame on Friday (Nov. 18). Belmont, now 1-2, also returns to action on Friday when they face Tarleton State in the first round of the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam.

Press Kit: A Run Down Of College Basketball’s Opening Week In Nashville

Destinee Wells. Photo: Courtesy of Belmont Athletics

College basketball is officially back and there are a ton of games for Nashville college hoops fans to watch this week.

There are four games that fans can sink their teeth into tonight (Nov. 7), including the highly anticipated matchup between the Vanderbilt men and Memphis at Memorial Gym at 7 p.m. CT. Vandy is coming off a very good season where they finished 19-17, marking their first winning season since 2016-17. The Commodores made a short run in the SEC Tournament and eventually made it to the NIT Quarterfinals.

Vandy will be without star Scotty Pippen Jr., but have a firm foundation built by Jerry Stackhouse, as well as solid leadership and experience from Liam Robbins, Jordan Wright and Quentin Millora-Brown.

Jerry Stackhouse. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Robbins is a 7-foot fifth-year senior from Iowa who will be one of the team’s biggest keys for success. Last season, he averaged 6.8 points and four rebounds per game, and blocked 30 shots–the most on the team. He only played 15 games during the 2021-22 season so his ceiling is very high and can be opposing teams’ worst nightmare.

Wright started every game last season and averaged 12.3 ppg–the second most on the team. He also led the team in rebounds with 6.4 rpg and shot 42 percent from the field. The team will look to Wright to be its leading scorer.

Less than two miles up the road, the Belmont men’s basketball team will be hosting the Ohio Bobcats to kick off their season.

The Bruins will look very different this season compared to their last two after losing all-conference players such as Grayson Murphy, Nick Muszynksi and Luke Smith. Belmont’s team will be very young and inexperienced, but they will have help from All-OVC First Team senior Ben Sheppard.

Sheppard will be the heart of the Bruins this season as the team will be relying heavily on him to create offensive production. Last season, he started all 33 games and led the team in scoring, averaging 16.2 ppg and shooting for nearly 50 percent from the field.

The Bruins are also entering their first season in the Missouri Valley Conference, so this is a season that fans will most definitely want to keep an eye on.

Over in North Nashville on the Tennessee State University campus, the Tiger’s men and women’s basketball teams will be taking on historic HBCU Frisk University at the Gentry Center. The women’s team will face Fisk at 5:30 p.m. with the men’s game following right after.

The TSU women’s team is also in a transitional year as three of their top scorers are no longer on the team. They will have help from Gia Adams who played 31 games, averaging 12.9 ppg.

Marcus Fitzgerald Jr. Photo: Courtesy of TSU Athletics

The men’s team were picked to be one of the favorites in the OVC this season with returning stars such as Marcus Fitzgerald Jr. who is set to be one of the most impactful players in the conference. Fitzgerald averaged 11.7 ppg, 77 assists, 33 steals and shot 34 percent from the three-point line.

On Wednesday (Nov. 9), the Belmont women’s basketball team will host Chattanooga in their season opener as they begin a highly anticipated 2022-23 season. The ladies are coming off another historical season, winning their second straight OVC Tournament title and picking up an NCAA Tournament win against Oregon. In the end, the team lost 70-67 to the Lady Vols of Tennessee in the second round of the March Madness Tournament.

The Bruins received 14 votes in the Associated Press Preseason Women’s Basketball Poll. They welcome back the OVC Tournament MVP Destinee Wells who’s already solidified herself as a Belmont legend, leading the Bruins to two NCAA Tournament wins. Last season, Wells averaged 16.7 ppg, 140 assists, and shot for 45 percent from the field. She is supported by Tutti Jones who averaged 11.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, and 87 steals. The Bruins will be back at it on Sunday (Nov. 13) as they welcome No. 5 Louisville to the Curb Event Center. Belmont’s women’s team will be must-see basketball.

Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

The Vandy women’s team also readies for its second season behind Shea Ralph who led the Commodores to a successful 2021-22 campaign where they finished 16-19 and 12-5 at home. They went on to win two games in the WNIT before losing to MTSU 55-53.

They will be playing Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green tonight before returning home on Thursday (Nov. 10) to welcome Samford to Memorial Gym. The ‘Dores will be welcoming back stars Jordyn Cambridge and Iyana Moore. Cambridge, a Nashville native, started all 33 games last season and averaged 10.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, assisted 146 and had 129 steals. Moore is coming off a stellar freshman season where she averaged 12.7 ppg and shot 39 percent from the 3-point line.

Lipscomb’s women’s team played their season opener at noon today, falling to TCU 69-62. They will play at Northern Kentucky on Thrusday and then have their home opener against Mississippi Valley State on Saturday (Nov. 12) at Allen Arena. The player to watch is Jalyn Holcomb who averaged 10.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, and shot nearly 40 percent from the field.

The Bisons’ men’s team will be opening their season against South Dakota on Wednesday before returning to Nashville to host Campbellsville-Harrodsburg on Saturday. They have ASun Preseason Player of the Year Ahsan Asadullah returning who is going to be a massive problem for defenses across the conference. He led the team in almost every major category, averaging 15.2 ppg, 9 rpg, having 114 assists, and notching 25 blocks.

Lipscomb and Belmont will face off in an early Battle of the Boulevard on Nov. 14 at Allen Arena at 7 p.m. CT.