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    Women’s Basketball Ready For Tip Off

    Michele Cherry handled a lot of responsibilities as an assistant under women’s head basketball coach Maura McHugh in the last three seasons. ‘Last year I wore a lot of hats,’ Cherry said.

    Cherry has been a career assistant since graduating from Arizona State in 1992. She served as a graduate assistant at her alma mater during the 1992-93 season. During that time she strengthened her relationship with her former Head Coach, Maura McHugh.

    Cherry also coached under McHugh for two seasons with the Sacramento Monarchs in the WNBA, and also in the now defunct ABL for the Long Beach StingRays.

    Coach Cherry said she enjoys working at the college level, ‘It’s more of a job at the pro level, but I had a really good group in Sacramento,’ she said.

    She also said that although the athletes at the pro level are all ‘bigger, stronger, and faster, along with bigger egos,’ the difference is not to much to handle.

    She said that she likes coaching at SBU better than coaching at Cal State Northridge, where she spent some time before moving to the pros. ‘The west coast is far from home for me, I’m glad to be back east,’ she said.

    ‘It was a quick transition,’ Cherry said on being appointed as Head Coach over the summer. ‘I got a call Monday at midnight, and Tuesday I was in accepting the job.’

    She also said that McHugh didn’t give her any real advice on her way out, just complimented her style and told her to keep doing the things that she’s been doing, adding ‘It would be really easy to pick up the phone and ask her for advice,’ she said.

    Athletic Director Jim Fiore sees a big difference in the program today as compared to three years ago when Cherry and McHugh arrived.

    ‘We are a significantly better program today than when Coach Cherry arrived three years ago,’ Firore said in an e-mail correspondence.

    ‘She helped our programs dramatic turn around, developed our players’ potential, recruited quality student-athletes and consistently demonstrated excellence in all aspects of coaching as the lead assistant coach,’ she said.

    During the past two seasons Cherry has helped lead SBU to the highest level the program has ever been at. The team compiled a 38-21 overall record while earning its first national postseason berth in program history.

    She also worked with two of the best players in the programs history, Mykeema Ford and Jessica Smith. Those players are the second and third leading scorers in program history, respectively.

    Smith is currently playing in Switzerland, and Ford was also heading to Europe after spraining her knee in a tryout with the WNBA’s Washington Mystics last season.

    After graduating two of the programs’ top players, this years squad has only four seniors, and only one returning starter, Dana Ferraro. She characterized this season as one that will be a ‘bit of a rebuilding year,’ but also said this is a ‘fun team to work with.’

    ‘Last year, the conference was Hartford, us, and everybody else,’ she said. With the loss of all the seniors and every other teams improvement posting another 14-2 conference record will be a hard task to accomplish.

    ‘The expectations are to get better each day, work hard and have the team prepared for success,’ Fiore said. ‘Continue to build a winning culture on and off the court. Continue to recruit effectively to meet the needs of our expanding presence in women’s basketball in the America East Conference…and as always beat, Hofstra, Albany and Binghamton,’ he added.

    Cherry said she is not nervous and believes in her abilities. She said she’s taking it one day at a time, looking no further ahead than the season opener Nov. 9 against Iona.

    ‘Day to day not that much has changed for me,’ Cherry said of the added responsibilities. ‘The biggest things is now I get to yell at the refs a lot more.’

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