As a player, Itoro Coleman had some of the best moments of her career at the ACC women's basketball tournament.
As both a freshman and a senior, she led Clemson to the ACC tournament title, and as a senior - in 1999 - she was named tournament MVP.
Coleman is hoping to pass part of her legacy on her Lady Tigers, who as the No. 9 seed will take on N.C. State on Thursday at Greensboro, N.C. in the opening round of this year's championship event.
I’m always excited about going into the tournament, with my experiences as a player - you live for moments like this," said Coleman, whose Clemson team will square off against the Wolfpack at 2 p.m. "You have to show up. That’s the beauty of the ACC. This is a great conference top to bottom, and you can’t walk into any game thinking you are going to win, because on any given night, anyone can win.
"You have to bring your ‘A’ game, which is why I love the ACC, and it’s what separates the ACC form a lot of other conferences. We’re excited about playing, and hopefully, if we can defend the way I know we can, we can continue to play.”
The Lady Tigers are coming off a loss to the Wolfpack in the teams' final regular-season game.
"We’re very familiar with NC State," said Coleman. "They've won the last two outings, and they are a very good team, and very versatile...You have to prepare for everyone.
"Going into the game, defensively we have to do a better job. We have to keep their bigs off the boards, and defend the perimeter. I felt like we gave up a lot of points in the paint, and we didn’t do a good job of protecting the paint, which is something we talk about all the time. Going into the tournament, we have to do a better job of that.
"Offensively, I felt like we got some good shots, but they just weren’t falling. At this time of year, we’re probably getting the shots we want, but we just have to make them."
Depth has been a problem for the Lady Tigers throughout the season.
"Even when we played NC State the last game, we only had seven players," said Coleman, who lost three players - two to transfers and one to a medical issue - early in the season. "Depth is very important to keep bodies fresh. You have to be mentally tough and have to come ready to play.
"NC State plays around ten people, and our approach is to do a better job guarding the perimeter, and keeping them out of the paint, which really hurt us. As far as depth goes, it’s something we’ve been working through all year. We’re used to it right now. We know that teams are going to put in fresh bodies all the time, so I have to do a better job of using timeouts, and resting our legs.”