CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Charlotte women’s basketball team returned to the courts this week for the start of practice. A three-hour session Monday, October 1, opened the official practices. The 49ers will have 30 practices leading up to the exhibition contest November 2 against Johnson C. Smith.

Each week of the preseason notebook, we will feature activities surrounding the program, interviews with members of the support staff and video interviews with players, chosen at random. This week’s players interviews include sophomore Tori Carter (here), junior Ayanna Holmes (here) and freshman Kenya Olley (here).

Giving back
One of not only head coach Cara Consuegra’s initiatives but also the entire Charlotte athletics department is giving back to the community. This summer, the 49ers women’s basketball program has been very active in its community service and that continued this week.
The Niners spent four hours Wednesday at the on-campus Habitat for Humanity build. Players, coaches and support staff all helped construct the house, which is an on-going project at the corner of University City Blvd. and John Kirk Dr.

Getting exposed to the limelight
With the start of practice Monday also came the rush of media coverage for the team. Two local television stations, WSOC and WCNC, were on-hand to get footage of the first practice and conducted interviews with head coach Cara Consuegra, junior Ayanna Holmes and sophomore Kira Gordon. Other local coverage was present at the conclusion of practice, talking with Consuegra, senior Ny Hammonds, junior Hillary Sigmon and redshirt junior Gabby Tyler.
Then, on Tuesday, Consuegra was joined by Sigmon and Tyler for a formal press conference which immediately followed the weekly football press conference at the Judy W. Rose Football Center. Consuegra, Sigmon and Tyler answered questions from the five local television stations, as well as writers from the Charlotte Observer, Gaston Gazette, Niner Times and other outlets.

Game times
This week, the Charlotte athletics department unveiled game times for this season’s contests. All times are listed on the schedule posted on The Niners will play 14 home games this season, including matchups with NCAA Tournament foes Liberty and South Carolina inside Halton Arena.

Season and individual game ticket information is available on or by calling (704) 687-4949. Reserve your seat now as the 49ers look to improve upon last year’s 14-4 home record, which set a single-season school mark for home victories.

Thank you
Jessica Johnson, a member of the Charlotte women’s basketball program since 2009-10, has medically retired from playing and will not compete for the 49ers this season. She is on track to graduate in December with a sociology degree with minors in American studies and women’s and gender studies.
Johnson, who missed the entire 2011-12 campaign due to injury, returned to the floor in five games for the Niners last year.
The Durham, N.C., native concludes her career by playing in 64 games, averaging 2.5 points and 1.9 rebounds. She scored a career-best 14 points at Arkansas State Dec. 19, 2010, and hauled in a career-high six rebounds two times, most recently against Maryland-Eastern Shore Dec. 22, 2010. All six of her career starts were during her sophomore season.

This week’s support staff interview is with athletic trainer Jennifer Winningham. Winningham, a Huntsville, Tenn., native is in her first year working at Charlotte and with the women’s basketball program.

1. You are still fairly new to Charlotte. How has your transition been so far?
It has been really good. Working with women’s basketball over the last four years and working with women’s basketball now, there are a lot of things that are very similar. Different staffs, things are different but the transition has been really good. The move from Monroe, La., to Charlotte, N.C., there are a lot of different things between Monroe, La., and Charlotte, N.C., but I am closer to my family here in Charlotte. That was a big reason on wanting to come here and to be a part of the Charlotte 49ers program.

2. You’ve worked at a variety of places, most recently ULM. What will you take from each of those career stops and apply here?
I think everywhere you go you take something different. When I first started out as a full-time athletic trainer, I started out at Tennessee Tech, which is my alma mater; I was straight out of graduate school then, learning about myself as an athletic trainer and learning how to work with coaches, players and different athletes, so I think at each stop, I have taken something different. When I was first starting out from undergrad to grad school to full-time employee and being at ULM, I was able to focus more on what I wanted to do as an athletic trainer. You learn a little more about yourself each year and learn about different athletes, so you take something each year. For me that was a learning process how to learn from myself and to learn from the coaching staffs and athletes that I have worked with.

3. You also worked women’s basketball at ULM. What about being around a team like this makes your job fun?
Being around college athletics is a career that I would never give up. It is something that I get asked a lot if I want to work with high school athletes or if I want to change my career. I really enjoy being in the college athletics and working with women’s basketball. Here at Charlotte we have a history of being a successful women’s basketball program and I am really excited about being a part of that. It is an exciting feel around here right now at Charlotte with the 49ers women’s program.

4. Working with this team so far, what do you see the potential it may have for this season?
I think we have a really good potential this season being in Conference USA after I have been working in the Sun Belt Conference for the past four years. And a lot of those teams are also transitioning over to the Conference USA this year and I have been able to watch those schools for the last four years. With the last couple of months with watching our program, we have a really good opportunity here and we have a really good potential for this team to be special going back into Conference USA.

5. What is the most efficient way, in your opinion, for a player to prevent injuries and avoid coming to see you daily?
We do a lot of good things in our weight room. (Strength and conditioning coach) Skyler (Farley) does a good job with injury prevention and a lot of people do not see that. They see that the weight room is just for getting bigger, stronger and faster. Skyler does a really good job of incorporating exercises and things that will help with injury prevention. We also do a lot of things with ice baths, foam rolling and stretching; doing those things and taking care of our bodies, which is the most important thing.