Lancers finalize women’s basketball staff

Published 11:36 am Saturday, July 8, 2023

Longwood women’s basketball has announced the addition of three new members to its coaching staff. Jaleesa Sams will serve as Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator, Rachel Balzer steps into a role as the Director of Operations and Player Development, and Mikayla Kinnard joins Longwood as a Graduate Assistant.

“I’m excited to welcome Jaleesa, Rachel, and Mikayla to our basketball family,” said head coach Erika Lang-Montgomery. “They will all fit well into our culture!”

Sams comes to Farmville after spending a total of sixteen years at her alma mater of North Carolina A&T University. She was apart of three-straight regular season conference titles as a player (2007-10) and joined the staff as a graduate assistant following her graduation in 2011. Sams would then go on to serve as the director of basketball operations for two seasons before being elevated to assistant coach in 2016.

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“Jaleesa is a great recruiter and is passionate about building relationships,” said Lang-Montgomery. “She brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of winning championships to our program.”

In her twelve seasons on the A&T staff, the Aggies posted a winning record nine times, including trips to the NCAA Tournament in 2016 and 2018. Sams graduated from A&T in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in sports science. She received her Master of Education degree from North Carolina A&T in December of 2015.

“I’m so excited to be working under Coach Erika,” said Sams. “I truly believe she embodies ‘The Right S.T.U.P.H.’ that will bring the program another championship. I am thankful that she chose me to be a part of her journey.”

Balzer joins Longwood from George Mason University, where she spent the previous four years as a member of the women’s basketball team. Her career was cut short due to injuries, but spent her final year in Fairfax on the sidelines as a coaching intern for the Patriots.

“Rachel is a young coach on the rise,” said Lang-Montgomery. “A host of injuries at George Mason propelled her into coaching. She benefitted from her time on the sidelines, gaining knowledge from the coaches there as she was able to assist in different areas of the program.”

In addition to her time with the Patriots coaching staff, Balzer also served as the Assistant Director of Youth Programs and Sports Performance/Advanced Training for Evolution Basketball Training, a basketball training company based in the Northern Virginia area. Balzer graduated from George Mason with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology with a minor in coaching and recently began working on her master’s in educational psychology with a concentration in learning cognition and motivation.

“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to join the Longwood women’s basketball program,” said Balzer. “I am looking forward to learning and working with Coach E and her staff. This team is special and I’m excited to be a part of it!”

Kinnard joins the women’s basketball staff following her playing career at SIUE, where she averaged 9.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists over four years. Kinnard left Edwardsville as a 1,000-point career scorer and dished out the 13th most assists in school history.

“Mikayla brings a versatile skill set that will impact many areas of our program,” said Lang-Montgomery. “As a graduate assistant you need that adaptability. I have no doubt that she has a bright future ahead.”

Kinnard graduated from SIUE in December of 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in public health. She began a master’s in higher education in the spring of 2023 and will enroll in Longwood’s MBA program starting in the fall.

“I am grateful to be joining Coach E and her staff here at Longwood,” said Kinnard. “Having the opportunity to grow and learn from a coach like her is something I couldn’t pass up. I’m excited to see where this journey leads us and can’t wait to get to work!”