UNCG Women’s basketball has never been so exciting.
The blue and gold are currently riding a four game winning streak, and have amassed 13 total wins on the season, the most the program has seen in the last five years.
After a 2015-2016 season which ended with a 15 game losing streak and graduated the program’s all-time leading scorer, how is all of this possible?
Enter new head coach Trina Patterson along with seven incoming freshmen, led by Nadine Soliman, a gifted scoring guard hailing from Cairo, Egypt, eager to relish her dream of playing college basketball in the United States. Their combined energy has been the spark plug that’s boosted the team to new heights.
“I know the last two years, we didn’t win any conference games,” Soliman recalls, “that’s not supposed to be UNCG.”
It doesn’t take a genius to see that Soliman has been instrumental in galvanizing the team’s success. The 5-9 phenom leads the Spartans in scoring (16.7) and steals per contest (1.6), which also rank third and sixth in the Southern Conference, respectively. She models her game after Kevin Durant, and not only does she sport his jersey number 35, but Soliman also leads all Division I freshmen in points per game like Durant did at the University of Texas 10 years ago.
You read that correctly. Nadine leads all Division I freshmen in points per game.
A major reason she’s been able to be successful so early on in her college career is because of the way her coach always has her back. “Coach Patterson, she really trusts me, and that really makes me feel more comfortable when playing,” Soliman expressed, “She always tells me ‘You can handle that’ even if it’s a tie game or whatever the situation is.”
Soliman also has the luxury of being able to benefit from the experience of the six seniors on the roster. “The seniors, they talk to us a lot,” she noted, “they know every single girl and what she can do, and they’ve told us how we should play the other teams. I’m grateful that I’ve had the chance to play with them this year.”
With UNCG’s roster composed primarily of seniors and freshmen, it will be essential for this crop of freshmen to gain as much knowledge and playing experience as possible so they can help lead the newcomers in the years that follow. Fortunately, Nadine Soliman has plenty of both; she was born into what she herself describes as a “basketball family”, and grew up with two parents and two brothers, all of whom have prior playing experience.
“They taught me that mental toughness and how to be confident when playing.” she says.
Not only has Nadine benefitted from being raised in a family full of basketball wisdom, but she’s had the opportunity to compete at the highest level internationally, having played in two African Championships, and three World Championships for Egypt over the past several years. She described the international experience as being different from that of any other; “When you play on the national team, you play games against teams like the U.S.,” she says, “so that was a was a very big experience for me. I was under 18 playing for my senior national team, so that was a very big thing for me.”
Soliman also deserves credit for the ease with which her game has been able to translate to the U.S. style of play. “Basketball-wise it’s totally different,” she says, “Here, basketball depends on the toughness. Back home and in Europe, it’s more fundamental basketball.” While there have been very few signs of struggle from the star guard, her game should only improve moving forward as she continues to acclimate herself on the court.
Nadine’s primary goal at the moment is to help secure more conference victories. The team has been successful in doing so as of late, but the Spartans still rank fifth overall in the conference. “We’re starting the second round [of conference play],” she remarked. “we lost games that we should have won, so this round is going to be very important for us.”
Although the focus is on achieving as much as possible for this season, it’s hard to ignore the potential within the big picture. The future certainly appears to be bright for her and the talented young core of freshmen, and she is already anticipating the team’s success down the road.
“Right now, three of the starters are freshmen, and we’re really efficient in the game.” Nadine explained, “I think right now, we’re the best freshmen in our conference. If you look in a few years, we’ll be really good, because already as freshmen we’re doing a lot for the team. I think long-term we’ll be unbeatable for the last two years at least.”
Until then, Spartan fans will just have to savor every moment of this historic season.