Just got back from the Lady Toppers’ WNIT prep press conference, where we learned that freshmen guards Lashay Davis and Courtney Clifton are no longer with the team.
Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles released a statement earlier today, stating that both players told her that they wished to pursue opportunities other than Division I basketball.
Here is the statement in full:
“Courtney Clifton and Lashay Davis are no longer members of the Lady Topper basketball team. I have spoken to each of them, and they both indicated a desire to leave the program. Lashay told me she no longer wants to compete at the Division I level and would like to focus on a career in medicine. Courtney told me that she wants to focus less on basketball and also go into the field of medicine. It takes a tremendous amount of dedication and hard work to be a member of our basketball program. We thank each of them for their contributions and wish them the best of luck with their future.”
Cowles didn’t have much to add to her statement during the press conference, but did use the phrase “Division I level” quite a bit. No way to know just yet, but her phrasing would seem to imply that Davis and Clifton might continue their basketball careers at a lower collegiate level.
“Each individual that comes in at the collegiate level has a commitment that’s required to be made,” Cowles said. “Obviously the Division I level being that ultimate level, there’s a lot of time, a lot of dedication, and a lot of commitment that’s required for a student-athlete to be able to juggle school and athletics.
“When they asked for their release and had made their decision that they wanted to focus more on their academic career path and had no desire to do it at the Division I level, obviously we’re going to grant that.”
Senior forward Dominique Duck said she was surprised by the announcement but said that it was probably the best decision if the freshmen’s hearts weren’t really in it.
“They kind of wanted to focus on education, which is a big part of going to college,” Duck said. “They wanted to focus on medicine, which is very time-consuming along with trying to keep up with basketball. I just wish them the best with their decision. No matter what, I’m still happy about them and their choice that they made because they made it for the best for them.”
Davis and Clifton’s departures will leave the Lady Toppers (21-10) a little shorthanded as they host Illinois in the first round of the WNIT Friday.
Davis averaged 7.4 points per game as Western’s biggest producer off the bench. She was second on the team in made three-pointers (40) and shot 38.1 percent from behind the arc.
Clifton started the season with a bang, leading the Lady Toppers with 22 points in a home win over Eastern Kentucky. But she only played in 18 games after that, averaging 4.1 points on the season.
Both Cowles and Duck said that junior guard Hope Brown and sophomore guard Vanessa Obafemi would be expected to help fill the void in bench production left by the departing freshmen.
Three players have now left the Lady Topper program this season. Sophomore guard Caitlin House also asked for her release in February.
There has been no word yet from Cowles on whether or not Western will try to fill the scholarship vacancies left by the departures.