The ladies of Salem College established themselves as a force to reckon with in the Great South Atlantic Conference (GSAC) this year under the leadership of new Head Coach Anita Griffin Howard.
Howard inherited a Spirits basketball program that went 3-23 overall the previous year (0-16 in conference play). Under Howard, the Spirits have won 13 more games than last season. In addition, shooting guard Satavia Taylor became the first student-athlete in the history of the athletic department to earn the GSAC Player of the Year honor; Center Jasmine Shabazz, a transfer from St. Augustine’s University, was selected to the GSAC All-Conference team; and the Spirits went from being winless in conference play last season to obtaining the #2 seed in the conference tournament and reaching the GSAC championship game.
Howard was honored for turning the team around so dramatically with the GSAC Conference Coach of the Year award.
“The team thrives off of a famous Ray Lewis quote, ‘Effort is between you and you,’” said Howard. “We work hard to prepare, because we understand that proper preparation prevents poor performance.”
Howard came to Salem College with a championship mentality and experience as both a player and coach. Howard was the high school player of the year for Georgia in her senior year, won three conference championships at Fort Valley State University as a player, and even won a CIAA conference championship as an assistant coach at Shaw University.
Though the Spirits’ did not make it all the way this season (the team fell in a tough battle against the #1 seed in the GSAC tourney), Howard has made her players feel like winners. Team Captain Shamaz Denerson says that she and the entire squad are grateful to Howard for instilling in them a winning mentality.
Howard, who will also be inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at Alfred Ely Beach High School in Savannah, Ga., said her goal is to give Salem and Winston-Salem a team that they can be proud of.
“Many people are unaware that Salem College has a NCAA program,” she said. “We plan to keep improving, provide an exciting brand of basketball by fostering competitive greatness, and fill the stands on this gorgeous campus!”