MORGANTOWN - The West Virginia women's basketball team is celebrating its 40th year of existence this season as coach Mike Carey returns four starters from last year's 17-14 squad.
Carey, in his 13th season, is the second-longest tenured women's basketball coach for WVU and holds the highest winning percentage (.634) in program history, entering the 2013-14 season with a 244-141 record.
West Virginia continued its tradition of advancing to postseason play as it made its fourth consecutive NCAA trip, a feat never accomplished by the women's squad. The Mountaineers have made nine overall NCAA appearances since 1974, seven of those coming under Carey's guidance.
The 2013 NCCA Tournament was WVU's sixth in the last seven seasons, but the Mountaineers postseason was cut short at the hands of Delaware as they fell 66-53 in the first round on the Blue Hens' home court.
In addition to the returning four starters, Carey also welcomes back 6-foot-4 center Asay Bussie, who sat out last season with a medical redshirt. Prior to her redshirt season, Bussie led the Mountaineers in scoring with 12 points per game on 53-percent shooting. She was the team leader in blocked shots in back-to-back seasons and reached her 1,000-point milestone as a junior.
In total, the Mountaineers boast five seniors as they enter their second season of Big 12 play.
Christal Caldwell (5-9), Brooke Hampton (5-9), Jess Harlee (6-1), Taylor Palmer (5-9) as well as Bussie will all be playing their final seasons in a Mountaineers uniform.
Last season, Caldwell led the Mountaineers in both scoring (13.1 ppg) and steals (51). The All-Big 12 first teamer had 22 double-digit scoring outings, including six 20-point scoring games and led WVU in the scoring column 13 times, the most of any player on the team.
Palmer led West Virginia in 3-point shooting with 63 and rounded out WVU's top three scorers as she averaged 9.9 points per game.
Hampton averaged more than nine minutes a game with 15 starts, while Harlee, like Bussie, returns after recovering from a torn ACL in the final regular-season game. Harlee was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive Team. Both Harlee and Bussie have been named captains for this season.
The Mountaineers also have a lot of depth at the point guard position. Junior Linda Stepney (5-7) has started all but five games in her career and led West Virginia with 86 assists last season. Stepney also has flashed the ability to shoot from beyond the arc.
Behind Stepney, Hampton shares time at the position, having played 93 games the last three seasons.
Sophomore Darius Faulk (5-9) also returns this season and has 31 games of experience at the point.
Also back is 6-1 Averee Fields, who started all 31 games last season, averaging 24 minutes, 7.8 points and 4.9 rebounds a game.
''Being aggressive offensively - that's something we've been working on all summer and something we continue to work on,'' Carey said. ''Christal Caldwell and Taylor Palmer have really worked hard, and Bria Holmes really improved over the summer.
''We think we have a lot of pieces, and I'll be able to really bring people in and out. I think we're pretty deep, as deep as we've ever been, so we'll be able to keep fresh people in there and do some other things.''
Nov. 24: Virginia4 p.m.
Nov. 30: at Youngstown St.4:35 p.m.
Dec. 3: Coppin St.7 p.m.
Dec. 7: Fairleigh Dickinson2 p.m.
Dec. 14: Marshall*TBA
Dec. 18: Delaware St.7 p.m.
Dec. 21: at Duquesne2 p.m.
Dec. 29: Elon*2 p.m.
Jan. 2: at Kansas8 p.m.
Jan. 4: at Oklahoma St.7 p.m.
Jan. 8: Baylor7 p.m.
Jan. 12: TexasNoon
Jan. 15: at Iowa St.8 p.m.
Jan. 18: Oklahoma2 p.m.
Jan. 22: at Texas Tech7:30 p.m.
Jan. 25: at Texas4 p.m.
Jan. 29: Iowa St.7 p.m.
Feb. 1: at TCU8 p.m.
Feb. 8: Kansas St.2 p.m.
Feb. 13: at Oklahoma7 p.m.
Feb. 16: TCU1 p.m.
Feb. 19: Oklahoma St.7 p.m.
Feb. 22: at Kansas St.6 p.m.
Feb. 26: Texas Tech7 p.m.
March 2: at Baylor2 p.m.
March 4: Kansas7 p.m.
March 7-10: Big 12 ChampionshipTBA
*at Charleston Civic Center