Joshua Mabry, Campus Carrier sports editor
As the Berry women’s basketball team gears up for another season, McKamie Place, who has been playing basketball since she was 4 years old, will serve as the team’s new assistant coach.
Prior to coming to Berry, Place served as an assistant coach for Mount Saint Mary College in New York for one year and then as assistant coach at University of Texas-Tyler last season.
She was a Division III student athlete on the women’s basketball team at Southwestern University in Austin, Texas, before going on to coach.
Place said that everything about Berry was attractive to her.
“The first thing was the high academics,” Place said. “That’s really important to me, was important to me as a student, even more important as a coach. These young ladies are here for an education and just having that sense of being at a higher ed school and really focusing on that.”
In addition to stellar academics, Place said Berry’s beautiful campus and the fact that she and head women’s basketball coach Thomas Johnson connected really well drew her to Berry.
“He is the type of Christian, kind man who knows a lot about basketball but is also a good person,” Place said. “That was really important to me because I need a good mentor for this next year.”
Place has been at Berry for two weeks. During those two weeks, she said that the family atmosphere of Berry has been amazing.
“Everybody is just very giving and when you ask for help, they’re more than willing to help,” Place said. “No one has a bad day around here and if they do, I don’t know it. That helping hand, that servant’s heart, that’s the key.”
Place said that she plans to improve the team’s recruiting, which she considers to be her biggest strength. Recruiting is fun because it allows a coach to get to know what a student athlete is all about, according to Place.
Another area that Place said that she plans to improve the program is the team’s organization.
“I think that’s going to help Coach Johnson a lot,” Place said. “He’s been by himself for the past month and that’s been rough. I’m just excited to be around these girls and teach them a little bit of what I know from playing at Southwestern and being able to reiterate that to them.”
Place said that the best aspect of being a coach is getting to have an influence on student athletes.
While what happens on the court is important to Place, she said that getting to be with the team every day, whether that be on the court or off the court or in preseason, is the best thing.
“I want them to call me someday and tell me about who they got engaged to,” Place said. “Just forming those relationships and getting to help them now and then later on in the future.”
When Place is not coaching the women’s basketball team, she can be found hanging out with her family, who she considers to be her best friends, or at a concert.
“I love music,” Place said. “It doesn’t matter what kind. That’s my goal, to go to over 100 concerts before I die.”
Johnson said that he believes that Place will bring a lot of drive to the team.
“Sometimes I can’t give her enough work,” Johnson said.
Place’s personality is what stands out the most, according to Johnson.
“She is self-confident and she is energetic,” Johnson said. “Those are two things that you catch when you first meet her. She hasn’t met a stranger, that’s for sure.”
Blake Childers, sports information director, said that the energy that Place will bring to the team is something that he is excited to see.
“I think that’s a big thing she’s going to be able to bring in is her DIII experience and being able to connect with the team by being in their shoes not too long ago,” Childers said.
After the success of last year’s team, Childers said that he is very excited to see what this year’s team does, especially with Place now serving as an assistant coach.
After the new year, when the women’s basketball team starts its Southern Athletic Association (SAA) conference play, the team will be looking good, according to Childers.