Dec. 4, 2012
One main ingredient that has been missing from NC State's winning recipe in the last half decade has been a dominant post player. Certainly not the only program to suffer from this same ordeal, the addition of Markeisha Gatling might just be the missing piece to a delicious season in Reynolds Coliseum.
Gatling is currently in her first season with the Wolfpack women as a junior college transfer from Gulf Coast Community College in Panama City, Fla., and will have two years remaining to control the paint at both ends of the court for head coach Kellie Harper.
Through nine games of the 2012-13 season, Gatling is third on the team in scoring with 10.3 points, and second with 6.6 rebounds per game.
Just mention the name Markeisha Gatling since preseason and the reaction has been universally the same. Eyes open wide and a teeth-toting smile describes exactly what everyone closely associated with the program has been looking for since the departure of 6-7 Gillian Goring after the 2007 season.
“Keisha Gatling has the ability to be one of the best post players in the conference,” said Harper. “With great size and mobility she brings an added dimension to our inside game.
“She has incredible hands and tremendous scoring ability on the block. Plus she is a Raleigh native which makes it that much sweeter.”
Yes, she is a Raleigh native who played her high school basketball right around the corner at Athens Drive. She still ranks second in school history with 1,273 points and set a North Carolina high school single-season record when she connected on 74.1 percent of her shots as a senior.
The 6-5 standout originally signed with Charlotte after averaging 16 points, eight rebounds and six blocks in her final season at Athens Drive. Gatling was ranked No. 88 in her class by Blue Star Basketball and the 20th best player in her class according to Girls Basketball Report.
She ended up taking a detour to Gulf Coast to play for Hall of Fame coach Mary Scoval. After playing behind an All-American post in her first year in Florida, she blossomed in her second campaign and led her club to a 24-5 record and a No. 1 ranking in the FCSAA coaches' poll.
Gulf Coast won a share of the Panhandle Conference championship and reached the NJCAA Division I Region 8 Tournament's title game.
After scoring nearly 12 points and grabbing nine rebounds a game, she was rated the No. 7 junior college player by All-Star Girls Report.
“In the half court game, she can be unstoppable," said Scoval.
Bret McCormick, who covers the sport for ASGR, thought very highly of Gatling when she signed last fall with the Wolfpack.
"She is a legitimate post that you can throw the ball into and she will score. Markeisha is certainly one of the top players at her position in this signing class.”
Gatling continued her efficient work around the basket at Gulf Coast, converting nearly 64 percent of her shots as a sophomore. Her proficiency on the offensive side of the ball will go a long way in assisting her new club, who shot just 38.4 percent, collectively, during the 2011-12 season.
Gatling’s attributes are already making a difference according to her Wolfpack teammates, including fellow post player Kiana Evans.
"Keisha is the presence we have been looking for," said Evans. "If she is posting or not, she is a big person to guard so you will always have to make sure to watch Keisha.
"Even though she is big, she knows how to go back door and slip on you. With her size she can't be moved so you are definitely going to have to pay attention to her cause she has soft hands and finishes very well.”
Evans looks forward to playing on the court at the same time as Gatling, giving NC State a formidable frontcourt duo that can do a variety of things.
"Keisha is going to be our dominant person and I'm going to be our lane opener, rebounder and hopefully another dominant post," said Evans. "If you have me and Keisha setting screens on the guards, Marissa [Kastanek] is going to have all day to shoot."
The Wolfpack has shown it can make the outside shot after a school-record 205 three-pointers went in the basket last season. Kastanek and junior Myisha Goodwin-Coleman made up the best shooting combination in the ACC in 2011-12. The duo, collectively, shot 37 percent and made 107 buckets from beyond the arc.
Inside-outside threat Kody Burke has also been impressed with what Gatling is bringing to the team.
"When the ball is in the paint and she catches it it's an automatic two points," Burke said. "She has great hands, great finish around the rim, she's very strong and a team player as well. She is a great addition to this team.
"She is the void we have been missing at center."
NC State will host Elon this Sunday at 2 p.m.