The highest ranked recruit in women's basketball program history -- Loliya Briggs -- will have her official debut as a Panther on Friday, Nov. 9 when Pitt hosts Youngstown State in the season opener.
Briggs, a native of Gainesville, Fla., saw her first collegiate season end before it started when she was sidelined during the summer of 2011 with a knee injury. Despite not being able to play, Briggs was named a team captain prior to last season and has earned the leader role again this winter.
Q: You were injured last summer playing with the Nigerian National team prior to suiting up for Pitt -- how tough was it for you to watch from the bench in 2011-12 and finally to step on the court as a collegiate athlete this past Saturday in Pitt's exhibition game?
Briggs: The injury was horrifying, it was terrible. However, when I look at it from the bigger picture, it was also good because I got to see what needs to be done and where I can help the team. It was really overwhelming to return to the court. I sat out a year and a half, that's a long time. I had an 'oh my gosh, I'm playing!' moment quite a few times last week when I thought about the exhibition.
I actually ended up crying the day before. I've been playing since I was four. This is my love and I wouldn't trade it for anything. The day before our game, I just couldn't believe it had been a year and a half since I'd played in a game. People wait their whole life to play in college so stepping on the court was really cool and what I envisioned from 10th grade (when she verbally committed to Pitt) so it really was pretty amazing.
Q: Despite not being in uniform last season due to injury, you were still named a captain. That title has been repeated this season as you were selected this past week as a tri-captain for this season's squad. What does the title leader mean to you?
Briggs: It means a lot on the college level but I have always been put in a leadership position so it was actually pretty cool getting acknowledged and still be able to lead even though I wasn't playing. Now that I'm back at it again, it's an even bigger load but it's better pressure because I can represent the team on and off the court better than I would if I wasn't captain.
Q: You were a member of one of the most highly regarded high school programs, Potter's House Christian Academy, which won three-straight National Elite Girls Basketball Championships. How did being on such a star-studded squad prepare you for the next level?
Briggs: We had an amazing team when you look at it on paper. One (of my teammates) went to UNC, one to USF, one to Charleston, one to Seton Hall, three to the Air Force Academy -- all on full scholarships. Playing with them and transitioning to Pitt was very different because Coach B (Berenato) teaches things differently, but also teaches it the same way if that makes sense (with laughter). My favorite part about playing here and in high school is the pressing. I love defense. The way we play our zone, however, is different -- the way we play our 12 is different. High school and playing at that level definitely prepared me for Pitt. I get the principles; I get what I'm supposed to do. It's just a matter that the game moves much faster than what I was used to despite being from (a great high school program). I'm just learning it and the first game being back was pretty exciting.
Q: How would you describe this year's team to a novice who might not know a thing about Pitt Women's Basketball?
Briggs: We play as a team and our chemistry since the summer has gotten better and better and I am very proud of that and hope others can see that. I was so proud of them (this past Saturday at exhibition) because even though I didn't have the greatest game, they came out and played their behinds off. We put 94 points up and I don't even think we did that last year. To see 11 turnovers where last year we would have had 11 turnovers in the first half, just playing with them is exciting, especially seeing our progress from sitting out and coming back on. I know we can accomplish great things.
Q: You committed very early, just prior to your junior year (summer of 2010). What made this University and city the right place for you?
Briggs: Honestly, I got here and was blown away by the campus and the school in general. It had nothing to do with basketball (at first) because I know academics come first and that is always how I was raised. When I got here and met Coach B and the staff, it felt like home to me. It was something different from Florida and everything was totally different like the weather and having four seasons (laughter). Pittsburgh is tricky, but having four seasons is something I never had living in Florida. In regards to basketball, I wanted to come to a program where I could help build. Even though they were just coming off of two Sweet 16's, it was two Sweet 16's and I wanted to take them even further.
Q: We get to watch you for four years, but looking ahead, what's on the horizon for Lo Briggs?
Briggs: I want to go to law school and I definitely want to be a lawyer. Basketball is cool and exciting. If my limbs hold up, maybe I will play one to two years (overseas), but I want to be established and take that next step for my future.