After a fine freshman season, DaShera Boone didn’t expect to be taking Basketball Appreciation 101 at Elizabeth City State last year.
But, thanks to a disciplinary issue that she and Lady Vikings coach Alico Dunk prefer not to discuss, Boone sat out the 2011-12 season and was forced to ponder life without basketball.
“I took that time off and went over what I wanted to do with my life and I how wanted to do it,” she said.
Boone attended every home game during her suspension and came to the realization that what she really wanted was a second chance.
“It was hard to see them play, especially when they were losing close games,” she said. “It was the worst scenario I could be in ... watching from the sidelines.
“When they were winning, I was cheering and congratulating my old teammates.
“It all showed me how much I really loved basketball and missed it.”
And the Lady Vikings, who were ravaged by injuries last season, also missed the versatile Boone.
She could play either guard position and had averaged 5.5 points and 22 minutes a game in her first year as a college player.
When practice started last fall, Dunk welcomed back the wayward Boone and ECSU has received a boost from his decision.
Boone has averaged 8.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 27 minutes and is one of the reasons ECSU (18-3 overall, 10-1 CIAA) is running away with the CIAA Northern Division and brings an eight-game win streak into today’s home contest with Chowan (4-16, 4-8).
“She’s eager, she’s hungry,” Dunk said of Boone, a 5-foot-9 sophomore from Newport News, Va. “Missing the game and not having an opportunity to play has humbled her. She appreciates the game much more.”
“I thank God for putting me back and giving me the strength and health to be playing again,” Boone said. “It’s very exciting to be back.
“This is a fun team. Everybody gets along. Everybody knows each other’s game. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I just love that about this team.”
The team has a lot to love about Boone, too.
“DaShera is one of our most complete players,” Dunk said. “We use her in a variety of ways. We use her at the point, we use her at off-guard and she guards the other team’s best offensive player.
“She handles the ball well enough that if we are pressured at the point, she can move over and bring the ball up and get us into our offense. That’s a big-time asset to have.”
“I think I bring a number of roles to the team,” Boone said, “not just scoring, but getting the whole team involved on the court. My major thing is defense. I try my hardest there. I’ve always been told if you play hard on defense, the offense will come. I don’t exactly try to steal the ball, I just try to contain them.
“My height, my length and my wing span help me. I’m bigger than most guards and it is an advantage to be able to put some body on them and slow them down.”
While Boone said she is comfortable covering both forwards and guards, she said her “slow feet” causes one matchup problem: “I don’t like covering those scrappy little point guards,” she said with a laugh.
But Boone does enjoy blowing by them — and players of any other size — when she has the ball in her hands.
“When I drive and I notice nobody has stopped me, it brings me a lot of joy,” she said. “I just need to do a better job of finishing so I can take advantage of it.”
While she may have missed a few layups, Dunk and Boone agree that the biggest area of offensive improvement that remains for her is the jump shot.
Boone, helped by layups, is shooting a so-so 39 percent from the floor. While that is up seven percentage points from her freshman year, a better jumper is going to make Boone more dangerous.
“If she improves that jump shot, she’s going to be almost unstoppable,” Dunk said. “With the way she handles the ball now and her size, she can get the ball and score over the top.”
Boone believes it is only a of practice before she masters the jumper.
“I just need to get in the gym over time and work on it,” she said. “I’m already doing that. I come to the gym on my days off and after practice I shoot at least 50 to 100 shots.
“That’s going to bring a lot to my game.”
A game she learned to appreciate more after missing a season.