By JASON KING
Early success for the Jacksonville Lady Red Devils has come thanks to an inside job.
The Lady Red Devils (2-0) are sporting a bigger look this year, which has led to victories over Little Rock McClellan and struggling North Pulaski.
But the size and talent coach Katrina Mimms has on this year’s team doesn’t just show potential for success this year. With underclassmen, including two freshmen, taking all of the starting spots, it could be the beginning of a prosperous run for Jacksonville.
“We’re also trying to develop more kids,” said Mimms the fourth-year coach who will lead the Lady Devils in this week’s Mills Invitational. “We’re hoping there are some more kids who can come on and do a good job for us.”
Jessica Jackson leads a talented sophomore group that includes post players Coya Hood and Melissa Miller. Jackson started as a freshman and has had serious interest from major NCAA Division I college programs before she ever took to the court in a varsity uniform.
Despite her youth, Jackson had the burden of being the Lady Red Devils primary points producer last season. But she has found good support early this year with inside help from Hood and Miller, and 6-0 junior transfer Nicole Burnett has also been an asset inside.
“We have not shot well from the outside, but we’ve done a good job inside,” Mimms said. “We’ve been able to score in the paint pretty well. It’s definitely been our strength.”
Senior Vonsay Evans suffered an early knee injury and was scheduled for an MRI this week to determine its seriousness.
That leaves guard Chyna Davis as the lone senior able to play pending the outcome of Evans’ examination.
In one of the two games Mimms started three sophomores and two freshmen. In all, there are two freshmen — Tiffany Smith and Sacha Richardson, seven sophomores, four juniors and two seniors.
“We’re extremely young; we know that,” Mimms said.
Jackson is putting up big numbers again as a sophomore, but not just in the scoring column.
She led with 17 rebounds against North Pulaski, and has also led in assists the first two games.
“Jessica has done a good job of distributing the ball,” Mimms said.
“With all the defenses collapsing on her, she pretty much knows she can find Melissa or Nicole Bennett.”
Jackson’s passing has helped Miller score 12 and 10 points, respectively, in the first two games. Hood and Bennett have also scored a 10 or more points each night.
The Lady Red Devils were scheduled to play McClellan to open the Mills Invitational then had to play a regular season game against Cabot before returning to the tournament today.
That should give Mimms a chance to see the results of the team’s new strength and conditioning program.
“That’s three days in a row of playing games,” Mimms said. “That’s going to be a challenge for us. It’s going to test our conditioning and let us know where we are as a team.”