Coach Kenny Brooks is still trying to grasp the idea of being the hunted versus a basketball team hunting others.
The Virginia Tech women rolled into last year’s Final Four, and they are heavy favorites in the Atlantic Coast Conference this coming season.
Several preseason polls have the Lady Hokies as high as number nine, the highest for any ACC team. This comes after a 2022-2023 run that ended in the Final Four.
Head Coach Kenny Brooks as well as graduate students Elizabeth Kitley and Cayla King addressed local media last week detailing the 2023-24 roster, team expectations and recapping the first week of official practices.
The head coach is excited about the next chapter in his team’s novel.
“You know, before anybody wants to talk about the expectations, the expectations are no higher than what we put on ourselves and we expect to come out and win. I’m sure the kids have already talked about getting a taste of winning and how it feels. You want to continue to do whatever you can to continue that, get back to that point, and even go a little bit further. So, excited about this year, a new group starting over. But we’re really excited about any prospects that we’re going to be able to endure.”
Looking back, Brooks called this past season a tremendous year.
“It helped in so many ways as far as recruiting,” according to Brookes. We went to the transfer portal and we were able to get the kids that we got because of our success. And then recruiting, you know, in the future, we’re talking to kids now that we’re rubbing elbows with the best of the best. The kid will leave us and then they’re going to UConn or going to Tennessee to visit and those are things that never would have happened, you know, five, six, seven years ago. So, it definitely changed our program for the better and we really enjoyed every minute of it.”
The ACC schedule is no slouch and is something which could test the Hokies. The “pod” includes games with Virginia, Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State.
“I know that (Virginia Tech’s) pod, in my opinion, is the strongest in the ACC. We know what we’re going to have to go up against. It’s not only that you’re playing somebody in your pod. Like Virginia is a rival. You know, Carolina has become a rival. NC State is a rival, and then Duke is becoming a rival, because of the amount of times that you play them. So, we knew that was going to be a challenge for us and last year, I think we went 7-1 in that pod. To be 7-1, you know, during the regular season with that schedule, that’s pretty impressive for our group,” he said.
Brooks received good news that center Elizabeth Kitley and roommate/point guard Georgia Amoore announced they would return for another season. The Lady Hokies also added 6-2 Minnesota transfer Alanna Micheaux.
Kitley said it was 50-50 about this time last year. Then just as the season progressed, she started thinking about pros and cons.
“I think the stability here and the relationships I have here are just unmatched. Obviously, that’s not guaranteed anywhere else, especially at the next level. So that’s mainly what contributed to it. I think now looking back, that’s like 110% the best decision for me,” she said.
Kitley repeated as ACC Player of the Year after another dominant season where she was one of three athletes in the nation to average 18 points and 10.5 rebounds. She recorded 23 double-doubles and scored 20+ 18 times throughout the season, with her season-high of 29 coming in the final regular season game vs. Georgia Tech. During her senior season she became Tech’s all-time leader in points, field goals, blocks and double-doubles while also eclipsing 1,000 rebounds and 2,000 career points.
She is the only VT athlete to be named First Team All-ACC three times, All-Defensive twice and earn AP All-American recognition twice.
Top 3-point shooter Kayla King also announced plans to return for one more season. She admits a lot of onlookers have high expectations for this year’s squad.
“In some ways, I think people are trying to see if we can just keep it up and keep doing it. We know we have a lot of talent this year, and we have a lot of potential that we’re going to hopefully reach this year. So, we have the pieces to do it, so we just have to almost prove ourselves right, though, not really trying to show other people,” she said.
Last year, King posted the fifth-best season in program history in made 3’s with 80. Began the year with a program record nine in the Mount St. Mary’s game. King posted 12 games in double figures and made five or more 3’s five times. The Greensboro, N.C. native started all 36 games and averaged 8.3 points per game and helped the program lift the first ACC title ever in her hometown.in Final Four contention.
Micheaux, with her 13.8 PPG and 7.9 RPG, helps replace the interior production of Taylor Soule.
Thus, the Lady Hokies are in the new season’s Final Four discussion.
Earlier this year, the university and Brooks agreed to an extension that keeps him in Blacksburg through March of 2029.
Highlights of the contract include a six-year deal totaling $6.4 million, as well as other enhancements made to support staff salaries, assistant coach salary pool, postseason bonuses and operating budget.
Brooks, who enters his eighth season at Virginia Tech in 2023-24, owns a 155-74 record with the Hokies, including a 62-56 mark in ACC play. He has led the Hokies to the postseason each season that one was contested, including each of the last three NCAA Tournaments.
In 2022-23, Brooks’ Hokies went 31-5, won the program’s first ACC title, earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and reached the Final Four after a 15-game winning streak that began in January. His seventh season was one full of milestones and program bests as the Hokies went 14-4 in ACC play to earn a coveted double bye in the ACC Tournament. Tech went 16-1 at home with the lone loss coming to a top five team, and the Hokies defeated eight ranked teams – a program record in a single season.
Under Brooks, the Hokies have had unprecedented success in ACC play with his 62 league wins, which includes a sensational 27-9 record in the last two seasons.
The Hokies are scheduled to open their season on Monday, Nov. 6 at 5 p.m. ET at Carilion Clinic Court at Cassell Coliseum.