By Tracy Nelson
Assistant Director/Athletic Communications
When Cara Enright, Margaree King, Stefanie Stone and Anna Wilson step onto the Christl Arena floor for the 2008 Patriot League Tournament, they will undoubtedly feel at home. It is that floor where the four-pack of seniors have enjoyed so much success, including the 2005-06 Patriot League Tournament title which granted the Black Knights their first-ever trip to the NCAA Division I Tournament.
“Hosting the tournament is the best part about it,” Enright said. “Hopefully getting to finish our careers at West Point on our home floor in such a manner is fitting. There are so many memories from the last time we played the tournament at home and we can’t wait to build on them.”
Although this group represents the winningest class in Army Division I history, the road has been far from easy. They have had three coaches in a four-year span, including the late Maggie Dixon who suddenly passed away just 19 days after Army fell to No. 1 Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“For me personally, that little time that she was here with us meant a lot,” King said of Dixon. “It goes beyond basketball. She was just a good person and someone for all of us to strive to be like. I think about her everyday.”
Other than that devastating blow, this year’s seniors have enjoyed back-to-back 20-win seasons, a 20-4 mark in Patriot League home games and the program’s first conference title. Wilson, voted unanimously to serve as this year’s captain, is quick to credit the foundation set by previous classes.
“I would like to think that we’ve built on the successes of all of the classes before us,” she said. “The goal for us was to build onto the program so that Army will be a contender every year in the Patriot League. The Academy teaches us a lot of good leadership qualities that we can apply to the game and hopefully we have passed those feelings on to the rest of the team.”
Recruited by former head coach Sherri Abbey-Nowatzki, who spent six years at West Point, this year’s seniors arrived at the Academy at a time when the women’s basketball program flew under the radar. Other than a 19-10 mark in 2000-01, the Black Knights barely posted 15 wins a year in the new millennium.
“The interest in women’s basketball and women’s sports in general at the Academy has grown tremendously in the last four years,” Stone said. “More and more people are vested in our team and it’s great to see that. It’s a credit to all of the players that have gone through the program and helped build it into a winner.”
Army went 15-13 overall and 8-6 in the Patriot League as freshmen in 2004-05. Enright was named the league’s “Rookie of the Year,” but the team was ousted in the first round of the Patriot League Tournament by Colgate in a 78-75 thriller. Just one year later, Dixon took over the program and cut down the nets in March.
Following Dixon’s death in April of 2006, her assistant and long-time head men’s coach at Marist College, Dave Magarity, assumed the role as the group’s third head coach in three years.
“It’s been difficult but we just have to adapt to every situation,” Wilson said of the coaching changes. “It’s just like adjusting to something in the middle of a game. It’s been unfortunate that we’ve had three different coaches it’s not something that any of us thought coming in four years ago but we learned something new from all three of them.
“It was a really genuine gesture for Coach Magarity to stay,” Wilson added. “We know that he had a lot of other amazing opportunities, so for him to want to stick with us says a lot about him. He’s pretty intense, but he really just wants to get the best out of his players, so we all appreciate that.”
Magarity cannot say enough about what these four individuals have done in the three years he has spent with them.
“This class is one of the best that I have ever had the pleasure to coach,” Magarity said. “They have been through a lot, but these seniors have really taken the program to the next level. Each one of them brings something different to the table, but they will all leave a lasting legacy in my book.”
As far as what the future holds for some of the most successful women’s basketball players in Academy history, the possibilities are endless. All four will graduate in May and be commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants.
Enright (Norco, Calif.) and Stone (Hollywood, Md.) have branched Air Defense Artillery, which holds the responsibility for defending the air zone over the Army. Enright plans to stay on board with the Black Knights, beginning her service as the team’s Athletic Intern for the 2008-09 campaign. Meanwhile, Stone will head out into the “Big Army” and start her Officer Basic Course this summer. She’s hoping to draw Germany for her first assignment.
Wilson (Somerset, N.J.) and King (Jackson, Miss.) will both be staying stateside for the time being. Wilson branched Adjunct General, which is an administrative position that is similar to human resource management. She will start her service in Fort Monmouth, N.J., at the Prep School. King plans to work with the cadet-athletes as an Athletic Intern for the Army Strength and Conditioning program. She chose to branch Ordinance and will be dealing with all weaponry. Ordinance is directly responsible for the packing, shipping, supplying of all ammunition, along with testing and research and development.
If it’s the goal of a college athlete to leave a program in better shape than when they arrived, consider its mission accomplished for this year’s senior class.
“I think the underclassmen are going to do great things,” King said. “I expect the program to continue to excel. Everybody likes coming to a winning team, which is going to help recruiting. The underclassmen all have very high expectations for themselves, which will only continue to grow.”
Without a doubt, their graduation will leave a significant void in the lineup, so juniors, it’s now your turn.