By Andrew White | Staff Writer
There will be a familiar face on the bench this Friday when the Duquesne women’s basketball team kicks off their 2016-17 season. The Dukes have brought back former Director of Basketball Operations Cherie Lea to be an assistant coach for the Red & Blue.
Lea graduated from UNC Wilmington in 2004 and was a star member of the Seahawks basketball team. During her time in Wilmington, she played under Duquesne head coach Dan Burt, who was an assistant at the time with UNCW. Her accolades on the court include being a two-time Colonial Athletic Association First-Team selection, and being named preseason player of the year her senior season.
Lea was just as impressive off the court, being named the CAA Scholar Athlete of the year her junior and senior year as well as being First-Team All Academic while studying mathematics.
After graduating, Lea elected to continue her playing career overseas, playing for five years in Luxembourg and Holland. During her time in Europe, she captured two Dutch championships and two MVP awards as well as being selected as an All-Star four times.
Following her five year stint as a professional basketball player, Lea became a Program and Facility Supervisor for Danville Parks and Recreation in Danville, Virginia. Lea then proceeded to find a job in teaching math at Reidsville High School in North Carolina and afterward moved to Bartlett Yancey High School, where she coached the girls basketball team and continued to teach math.
In the summer of 2013, Lea was reunited with Burt after she accepted an offer to become the director of basketball operations for the Dukes.
“I really enjoyed it here,” Lea said about her first stint with the Dukes. “The winning tradition and the work ethic everybody shows here taught me a lot.”
Lea left the Bluff after just one season with the Dukes for an opportunity to be an assistant coach at Division II Wingate University. In her two seasons as the top assistant coach, Lea helped guide the Bulldogs to a conference championship and a berth in the Division II NCAA Tournament.
When a spot with Duquesne opened up, Lea jumped at the opportunity to come back to the Bluff.
“It’s a great place to be with a lot of great people who know how to win,” Lea said.
“Definitely recruiting,” Lea responded to a question regarding what she felt she improved on while at Wingate. “Just going around to recruits and talking to them or scouting them and finding talent to bring to the program.”
Lea also believes she will be able to connect with the players pretty well.
“I know that playing overseas is tough,” Lea said. “I feel like I can connect with the players by making them feel more at home and being able to relate to them in that way.”
Lea isn’t the only one that is happy she is back on the Bluff.
“We are excited to have Cherie back at Duquesne,” head coach Dan Burt said in a release. “She brings intelligence, humor, grit and a high understanding of the game. Cherie will work with the point guards, assist with the offense and be the recruiting coordinator.”
“The players have such a good initiative,” Lea said. “They have such a good attitude and are eager to learn and improve.”
Lea hopes to add her basketball experience and knowledge to the Dukes who look to return to the “Big Dance” again after a successful run last year.