Seal of approval

Lady Scot senior shines under new coach

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By Stefan Cooper
Sports Editor
Blount Today

Kim Seal had some week.

The Maryville College senior pumped in 37 points in a pair of games at LaGrange and Piedmont colleges, hitting 52 percent of her shots and going a perfect 11-for-11 from the free-throw line.

The Lady Scot sharpshooter was named Great South Athletic Conference Player of the Week for her efforts. As Maryville (9-3) readies to host King College at 6 this evening at Boydson Baird Gymnasium, Seal is averaging just under 10 points per game, making good on 91 percent of her free throws.

Only a year ago, Seal had phoned her older brother, Brad, seeking advice on whether she should walk away from
basketball for good.

The minutes had been scarce under former Lady Scot coach Dee Bell. As a junior last season, the 5-foot-10 forward had averaged 2.5 points, 1.2 rebounds and 7.7 minutes per contest.

She’d been her high school’s top player and leading scorer. Her minutes now, more often than not, came in the closing minutes of a Maryville rout.

It hurt. It was humbling.

"It was a little frustrating because I knew I could contribute," Seal said.

Brad’s advice had been quick and to the point.

"I told her, ‘You’ve come too far not to finish it,’" he said.

The arrival of first-year Lady Scot coach Jeff Pardue last August has since proven that advice golden.

The timing of Pardue’s hire, coming only a week before the start of classes, could hardly have been tougher for a new coach. Recruiting was a wash. The former Lees-McRae assistant knew he had a strong team returning statistically, but that told him only part of what he wanted to know.

Who were the players returning not putting up the big numbers, the ones who could help make his first team at Maryville a success?

"The first thing I noticed (about Seal) was she can score," Pardue said. "When you can score, I think there’s a place for you."

More so than her shooting, it was the way Seal practiced that caught his eye, he said. "She hustles and gives you everything she’s got," he said, "and I like players like that."

As fall drills neared a close, only all-conference sophomore Natalie Munday was ahead of Seal in the starting rotation. It wasn’t long before another member of the Seal family would get a phone call. This time, the mood of the conversation was decidedly more upbeat.

"She called me and said, ‘Mom, they’ve got a new coach down here, and I think he likes me,’" Nancy Seal said.

Munday, most valuable player of last season’s conference tournament, suffered an ankle injury during preseason, limiting her availability in early going. Seal was named the starter in her stead. She’s since become one of Maryville’s most reliable performers, her 49 percent accuracy from the field trailing only a blistering 51 percent success rate from junior guard Melissa Uner.

Support from her teammates played a big part in surviving her first three seasons at Maryville, Seal said, none more so than fellow senior and team leader Beth Reed, herself enjoying a banner year in Pardue’s first season.

"I don’t think any of us felt Kim wasn’t any good," Reed said. "We used to joke Kim had 100 offensive moves, and we
named every one of them."

The play of Reed, Seal and fellow senior Summer Dalton, the team’s leading scorer at 13.5 points per game, was always going to play a critical role in Maryville’s success this season, Pardue said.

"I wanted to give this team a certain comfort level," he said. "I let them (Reed, Dalton, and Seal) have a lot of input. I’ve given them a lot of leeway. I tried to respect their success and longevity together."

Pardue’s lead-by-listening approach has produced a team with sterling numbers through 12 games. Four players — Dalton, sophomore Katie Saxe, Uner and Seal — are averaging 10 points or better per game. A fourth, Munday, looking more and more ready to resume her starting role since returning from the Christmas break, is just back at nine.

"My goal for her is to become an All-American," Pardue said.

Of players who’ve appeared in at least 11 games, six — Uner, Seal, Reed, senior Koral Stache, Munday and Dalton — are shooting better than 42 percent from the field. Saxe, the other half of young post tandem, along with Munday, sure to take Maryville places the next two seasons, is pumping in 11.8 points per game to go with a team-best 7.5 rebounds.

Two of Maryville’s three losses have come to Division II Carson-Newman and Transylvania, an NAIA scholarship school.

In truth, her brother’s words last summer only confirmed what she already felt, Seal said.

"He’d gone through the same thing his sophomore year (at Lincoln Memorial)," she said. "He’d had an injury that’d held him down.

"It’s just not really in us to quit and leave. We’re taught when you start something, you stick with it."

Good coaching is good coaching, even at home.

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