Women’s Basketball: Nia Irving embraces leadership and “underdog mentality”

By: Ethan Fuller

BOSTON, MA — After graduating three key rotation players last spring, Boston University women’s basketball heads into 2019-20 with a young roster and new expectations following a strong season.

Forward Nia Irving is one of two seniors on the squad, along with guard Vanessa Edgehill. The team’s top returning scorer knows her leadership is critical for determining this year’s success.

“I think it’s super important, considering that we only have two seniors and five upperclassmen,” Irving said Friday.

“It’s kind of a big transition period for the team itself, but we want to prove to people that we’re not in a rebuilding phase just because we’re a younger team.”

Payton Hauck, Lauren Spearman and Naiyah Thompson may be gone from the lineup, but Irving understands their legacy will transcend their time at BU.

“They worked harder than anyone I’ve ever met,” she said. “They set the tone for future teams to come that it’s important to put the work in on your own.”

Morale is already trending up for a Terrier team looking to improve on last year’s playoff bid. According to Irving, head coach Marisa Moseley has called this week the best stretch of practices yet.

“We’ve had super high energy the entire time, we’ve been doing the little things, we’ve been hyping each other up,” Irving added. “I think we’re really starting to see our pieces come together and I think we look good.”

Health is one of those key ingredients that the Terriers could not seem to hold onto last season. But this year the entire roster is on track to suit up for opening night. The added depth should be a major plus for BU — three starters averaged over 34 minutes per contest last year.

The increase in healthy players also helps in practice. “It’s super exciting, especially in practice when the same few people don’t have to run and do the same drills the whole time,” Irving said.

Practices have been energetic and competitive. After the departures of two combo guards in Hauck and Spearman and one versatile forward in Thompson, a combined 97.8 minutes per game are now up for grabs. Meanwhile, five freshmen and one transfer student-athlete (Emily Esposito) join the roster.

“Everything’s pretty open right now,” Irving said of the rotations. “Everyone’s been doing a good job of pushing each other and making sure that we’re all competing for time and competing for a starting position.”

For Irving, each season has seen consistent improvement across the board. She has grown into a dominating presence in the paint and on the glass throughout college. That coincides with rising recognition; freshman year saw the 6’1″ forward earn an All-Patriot League Rookie Team nod, sophomore year drew All-PL Third Team honors, and last season merited a spot on the Second Team.

According to Irving, defense is what separates her from completing the climb to an All-Patriot League First Team award.

“I’m really trying to improve my defense,” she said. “That’s been the number one thing I think of during practice… not forcing anything, just letting the game come to me.”

As for the team, Irving says the Terriers need to approach every game with an “underdog mentality.”

“I think people underestimated us a lot last year… I think it could almost be the same this year because we have so many underclassmen and new freshmen,” she said.

Make no mistake — Irving, and the Terriers, have big plans.

“Oh, we want to get the Patriot League championship,” she emphasized. “We talk about it all the time.”

Boston University will start the road to the Patriot League championship on November 8 when the team hosts Marist College.

Featured Image by Gabi Turi.




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