The UT-Chattanooga women's basketball team is welcoming several new players to the program after losing five seniors from last season's Southern Conference champions. It has been a bit of a family reunion for freshman Kelana Gilbert, who has joined her sister Aryanna on the Mocs roster.
Before last season, the two played together at Columbia (Tenn.) Central High School, and Aryanna quckly made her mark at UTC as a freshman. She moved into the starting lineup at guard last Dec. 10 against Jacksonville State and started 25 games in her first Mocs season. She averaged 4.3 points a game and scored 14 on 7-for-7 shooting against Appalachian State.
She is eager to build on that beginning and is happy to be on the same team again as her sister.
"I've enjoyed it so far," Aryanna said. "We have great chemistry, and we know where each other is on the floor. So I'm loving being back with her.
"Sometimes I feel like I know what she's going to do -- like if she's going to shoot or pass it out. If she's in the post, I can know if I need to spot up."
UTC coach Jim Foster said he's directed sisters in the past and there's no difference in his approach to coaching siblings as opposed to other players.
"They have to figure stuff out, I think," he said. "They're sisters, they're friends and they know what the other is thinking before others do sometimes. But the adjustment is more on their shoulders than on others."
The Gilberts led Columbia Central to a district championship in Aryanna's senior season, but Kelana said she feels her game improved after her sister moved on.
"I think my last year of high school, I expanded a lot throughout my senior year," Kelana said. "But being back with (Aryanna) is a good feeling."
Aryanna said she's helped her sister prepare for college life and what to expect at UTC -- personal help she wished she'd had when she arrived in Chattanooga last year.
"When I came in, I was overwhelmed. I called my mom every day," Aryanna said. "But I just told (Kelana) that I was going to be here with her and she was going to be fine. I told her how to be ready for Coach Foster and what we do in practice. I told her about the drills and went over the plays with her."
"I think she's going to do fine. In this league, I really think she's going to do big things."