Burstrom, Gilmore key part of C-N effort
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
KNOXVILLE — It wasn’t so much the numbers on the final line as the first experiences on the line for a pair of Blount County products playing on the court of Thompson-Boling Arena Thursday in front of thousands.
Carson-Newman freshman Tatum Burstrom, late of William Blount, logged some valuable minutes for the Lady Eagles in the 104-44 loss to the No. 20 Lady Vols. So did junior Takyah Gilmore, who transferred to C-N to join coach Mike Mincey’s second edition of Lady Eagle basketball after two seasons at Roane State following her prep days at Alcoa.
After a 106-29 loss at North Carolina on Sunday, where both also hit the floor in Mincey’s first rotation off the bench in front of a rather spartan Tar Heel crowd, taking on Division I heavy weights in exhibition is a Carson-Newman trademark but besides a chance to play against the best. But Thursday was a chance to be on the Lady Vols’ floor and show what they could do in their first seasons at C-N to a crowd spotted with friends and family from just the other side of the river in Blount County.
“It was better experience tonight, everyone wants to play in Thompson-Boling,” Burstrom said when asked to compare the two storied venues. “We were a little shaky but got comfortable. It was a lot more fun playing in front of more people.”
Burstrom had her quickness and that streaky shooting touch challenged by a more widely recognized — at least on the national stage — quick and streaky scorer in Lady Vol Meighan Simmons. Burstrom was as fearless in front of the large but largely docile Lady Vol crowd as she was at WB, firing up 3-pointers from the wings (0-for-6) and pulling up in the lane on diving cuts in 14 minutes.
“It really wasn’t anymore difficult shooting here which is why I got a little angry with myself for not hitting them,” Burstrom said.
Simmons meanwhile was 0-for shooting treys against Burstrom before drilling her second of the night in the second half just after Burstrom hit the bench at the 10 minute mark to finish 2-for-5.
“That (matchup) wasn’t planned, it just developed on the floor,” Mincey said. “I know Tatum can be streaky but we recruited her because she can shoot the lights out. She’s been hitting those shots in practice, she got it up at Carolina few times and a few times tonight but her offense if going to skyrocket when she starts knocking those down like she did at ole William Blount.”
Gilmore also rotated in and the Lady Eagles forward in the No. 11 jersey often times found herself matched up 11-on-11 against Lady Vol Cierra Burdick‚ wearing No. 11 for Tennessee. The Alcoa alum was only giving up seven inches to the 6-foot-2 Burdick but that was no obstacle, even while working back into condition from a preseason illness.
“I’m not intimidated by anyone, I have to look at it as there just like me, maybe taller or bigger, but I can go out and give it 100 percent and play my game,” Gilmore told The Daily Times. “I didn’t look at it as too hard for us but a chance to get better to have some fun and learn from our mistakes.”
Gilmore’s drive to the hoop with 3.7 seconds left, drew a foul and the foul shots put the last points on the board for C-N. Gilmore finished 3-for-12 with nine points and two rebounds in 15 minutes.
“I had known about her through Alcoa coach Tonia Johnson and I had a former player down at Roane State who told me Takyah was one of the most athletic players she’d ever seen,” Mincey said. “We brought her on campus and it took like three moves and I knew we needed her. You could see it out there tonight, if she can get to the rim like that against Tennessee just think what she’s going to be able to do at our level.”
Carson-Newman has one final exhibition game playing Saturday at East Tennessee State before opening the season against Coker — who plays at Tennessee Sunday in its own exhibition game — in the LMU Tournament on Nov. 9
“I think it’s a huge plus for us to play them,” Burstrom told The Daily Times with her family watching the freshman on the TBA concourse. “Yeah we get drilled but we’ve really come together more and have picked each other up a lot and I feel like we’re better prepared for our season because of it, I’m excited about the season.”