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Wylie enjoying comeback season

Area Athletes update. …
SALISBURY — The biggest smile in Livingstone’s Trent Gym was worn by Elizabeth City State’s De’Rya Wylie.
Thursday’s CIAA game was a homecoming for Wylie, a 21-year-old Salisbury High graduate who scored nine points as ECSU’s Vikings beat Livingstone 64-44.
Elizabeth City (12-3, 4-1) leads its division, but winning is not exactly new stuff for Wylie.
In her four seasons at Salisbury — all on the varsity — the Hornets won 110 and lost 12. Her teams included a 27-3 state runner-up squad her freshman year and a 29-3 state championship team her senior year. She’s one of those fortunate few who won their last game. She scored 10 in the 56-41 title-game victory against Graham.
Wylie played with outstanding players in high school. Ashley Watkins, Saybah Sammy, Kwameshia Hicks, Shi-Heria Shipp, Bubbles Phifer, Ashia Holmes and Ayanna Holmes were teammates and all rank among Salisbury’s all-time top-15 scorers. It may surprise you that Wylie also is on that top-15 list, but she is. She’s 11th with 957 points, although you can probably count the number of shots she took outside the paint in four years on one hand.
Roughly 900 of her points came on putbacks and free throws. Wylie wasn’t as gifted as some of her teammates, but what she did as well as any 5-foot-8 person has ever done is rebound, hustle and defend. Those attributes put her on three All-Central Carolina Conference teams and three All-Rowan County teams.
It was generally assumed that Wylie’s career would end with high school because she wasn’t a ballhandler or outside shooter and college programs aren’t exactly lining up to sign 5-8 power forwards. But Andrew Mitchell was Salisbury’s coach her senior year, he had a lot of CIAA contacts from his days coaching Livingstone’s women’s team, and he helped Wylie find a school (Elizabeth City State) and a coach (former East Carolina star Alico Dunk) willing to give her a chance.
Wylie was expected to have to make a tough transition to the backcourt, but that really hasn’t happened. She’s still a 5-8 forward and she still survives at a higher level by outworking people.
“I guess I’ll always play a big-girl game,” Wylie said with a laugh. “I’m a big girl — well, in heart, anyway.”
Wylie’s first season of CIAA competition was in 2010-11. She played in all but one game for a 20-win team and contributed 1.7 points and 2.0 rebounds.
Her role increased for the 2011-12 season, but her time on the court ended abruptly. She was starting some games and averaging 3.1 points and 3.1 rebounds when the Vikings went to Fayetteville State for a game on Jan. 9. She had zero rebounds in six minutes, and there clearly was something wrong with her wind and stamina.
The medical diagnosis was blood clots in her lungs. Such clots are potentially life-threatening, and medical treatment had to be prioritized over basketball.
“I found out last January 12 that I had to stop playing basketball,” Wylie said. “I couldn’t do anything baskeball-related for a long time. I couldn’t work out. I couldn’t do any kind of conditioning.”
Wylie was finally cleared to resume all physical activities in August. She earned a spot in the starting lineup, and she is feeling no ill effects.
She is playing with renewed confidence as a junior and has started every game. She’s averaging 7.7 points and 3.9 rebounds while playing about 20 minutes for a very good team.
Elizabeth City State played Fayetteville State on Jan. 8, and the Broncos saw a different Wylie this time. She scored 18 points, the most she’s ever had in a college game. She scored 23 a couple of times in high school.
“I can’t explain how it happened,” Wylie said with a shrug. “I just had a good game.”
When Wylie returned home to Salisbury Thursday to play against the Blue Bears, the calendar date was Jan. 10 — almost exactly a year since she was sidelined with blood clots. The criminal justice major celebrated her return to health with a victory.
“Things are a whole lot better now than they were last year,” she said.
Notes: Wylie had four points and five rebounds in ECSU’s win Saturday at J.C. Smith. The Vikings will wrap up a tough road trip tonight at Winston-Salem State.

OTHERS
Catawba senior Taylor May (South Rowan) is enjoying a breakout season (story upcoming).
May had a career-best 22 points in Saturday’s SAC win against Tusculum and also had seven rebounds.
May is averaging 9.9 points and 4.5 rebounds while playing 26 minutes per game.
She’s shooting 60 percent from the field — the best percentage in the league — and 82 percent from the foul line. She also leads the Indians with 10 blocked shots.
• Four local products were involved in Radford’s 72-69 win against Gardner-Webb in Boiling Springs on Thursday.
Ashia Holmes (Salisbury) started for Radford and scored two points. Ayana Avery (West Rowan), Radford’s sixth person, came off the bench and scored 13 points. Jessica Heilig (Salisbury) had 10 points and nine rebounds in a starting role for the Bulldogs. Doreen Richardson (Salisbury) also started for G-W and scored six points.
Heilig had 10 points and six boards in a 60-55 loss to Winthrop on Saturday.
Holmes had four points and Avery hit a 3-pointer in Radford’s 49-31 win against Presbyterian on Saturday.
Avery is 29-for-87 on 3s (33 percent) and ranks sixth in the Big South in that category.
• George Washington senior Shi-Heria Shipp (Salisbury) is having her best season. She had eight points and four rebounds in a 62-58 loss to UMass on Saturday.
Shipp, who missed her sophomore season with a knee injury and also missed some games as a junior with an ankle injury, is in the starting lineup and is averaging 8.9 points and 3.9 rebounds.
• Brevard’s Katelynne Poole (East Rowan) hit a 3-pointer and scored five points in Saturday’s 77-49 SAC loss at Lenoir-Rhyne.
• DaQuondra Cuthbertson (North Rowan) grabbed five rebounds and went 4-for-4 from the foul line to help Fayetteville State demolish Virginia Union 76-51 on Saturday.CIAA action at Capel Arena.

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