A Team Effort: Championship Camaraderie

Kent State women's basketball team finds support from staff, each other in winning season

The Kent State University women’s basketball team will play in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002. Champions do so much on their own, just look at the stats. But this championship team is supported by its members, its coaches and the Kent State community.

Kent State Today stopped by the end of practice and witnessed the camaraderie among the women firsthand. The team was focused on preparing to take on the No. 2-seeded Notre Dame on the national stage.  

Dionna Gray

Dionna Gray, a sophomore public health major, shared what it’s like to break the 22-year streak.  

“It feels amazing,” Gray said, “We were able to represent the university, and we put in a lot of hard work, so it feels really nice to be here in this moment.”  

The Golden Flashes beat the University of Buffalo’s women’s basketball team 78-60, with Dionna Gray scoring a career-high of 14 points in the second half.  

“On and off the court, we have a really good connection,” Gray said. “There’s no tension in the locker room, and it’s only uplifting. We have a lot of support through the coaches and community as well. And after winning, we really appreciated the wide range of community that was there to support and celebrate.”

Gray also named her teammate Katie Shumate, a senior biology major, as an important supporter of her success. Shumate was named the Mid-American Conference tournament MVP and scored 18 points and 9 rebounds against the University of Buffalo.  

Katie Shumate on the court

“Out of the five years I’ve been at Kent State, this year was the best for me,” Shumate said. “Overall, the people I’m surrounded with and the girls on the team played a big part in making this happen.”  

The coaching staff recognizes that support for the team comes from multiple angles, as well.

"All hard work, all the tough moments that they've gone through together as sisters, it pays off in big ways," said Coach Todd Starkey in a news conference after the championship win against Buffalo. "I'm so proud of our team. I'm really proud of our coaching staff, the best assistant coaches and trainers and sports performance people and academic people, who do so much for our program."

Shumate and Gray emphasized that support from their team and community helps them not only on the court but also with their academics and mental health.

“Coach Starkey recruits girls who take the classroom seriously,” Shumate said. “So, I think being surrounded by other people who have their priorities straight helps keep you in line especially when you feel like slacking off a little bit.”

Gray also explained that other than her coach and trainer, the upperclassmen on the team are her go-tos for help.  

KSU Women's Basketball team 2024

“Every time we’re having an issue or problem, or I’m having an issue or problem, I look toward those upperclassmen who have been here for a while,” Gray said. “So, Katie is a good example of somebody I would go to if I’m having an issue.”  

Shumate, Gray and the rest of the women’s basketball team will be facing the University of Notre Dame on Saturday, March 23, for the first round of the NCAA tournament.  

Learn more about Kent State's Womens basketball team.

POSTED: Thursday, March 21, 2024 01:50 PM
Updated: Friday, March 22, 2024 10:27 PM
Paul Burlinghaus, Flash Communications
Bob Christy