Friday, July 10, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Ladies hit the hardwood at Gina Cox Center

Leader sports editor

Lonoke, Jacksonville and Beebe took part in a 10-team girls’ basketball camp Thursday at the Gina Cox Center in Lonoke, and all three local head coaches were pleased with how their teams looked this early in preparations.

Host coach Nathan Morris was cautious about putting too much into his team’s successes on Thursday, but all things considered, was still happy with the performance.

“You know, this time of year you never really know who everybody’s got,” said Morris. “This is NCAA evaluation time, and a lot of kids are with their AAU teams. We had some, but the ones we had got back on Wednesday, so we were able to have all our kids there when a lot of other teams probably didn’t.”

Lonoke has only one regular starter returning from last year in Jarrelyn McCall, and one spot starter who played a lot off the bench in post player Ashlyn Allen. Everyone else will be brand new to varsity basketball.

“We’re going to be very young but we feel pretty good about where we’re headed with this group,” Morris said. “We’ve got McCall coming back as our leading scorer, and a post player that saw significant minutes with Ashlyn. We’ve got one other senior and a couple of juniors. Other than that, we’re going to have a lot of sophomores and two ninth graders.”

The sophomores and freshmen made up last year’s 4A-2 junior high, regular-season conference championship team. That team lost the district tournament championship in double overtime to Southside-Batesville.

“They were good but they weren’t a dominant junior high team,” Morris said. “So it’s not like we’re getting a bunch of players that ran through everybody they played. But we are getting a team that I like a lot. They get up and down the floor. They’re athletic. It’s just a fun group to work with. They work hard in practice, easy to coach and they have the potential to play an exciting brand of basketball.”

Beebe coach Greg Richey may have left the camp the most exhilarated. He was without four starters, including three who are still nursing ACL injuries and one with an injured back. The Lady Badgers were decimated with injuries last season. Two of the starters were cleared to play before this camp, but Richey played it safe and kept them out.

Despite missing that many players, Beebe beat Mount St. Mary, Sheridan and Clarendon.

“We left there feeling pretty good about ourselves, especially after the Sheridan game,” said Richey. “We haven’t played any this summer. We’ve just been practicing and lifting weights. Cassidy Elam and Hannah Camp were released last week, but there’s no reason to risk getting them hurt this early. So we just held them out. Gracie (Anders) should be cleared in September.

“We’re just a really deep team right now and when we get the five back we didn’t have today, we’ll be even deeper. They’ve all just improved. There’s really not a lot of difference in any player out there. I can substitute and it doesn’t drop off or change what we’re doing. No superstars, they all just play really hard, and that’ll get you a long way.”

Jacksonville returns several players that saw significant varsity minutes last year, though it has to find a replacement for the 5A-Central’s leading scorer from last year, Antrice McCoy.

Desiree Williams and Alexis James are the two leading returning scorers, but Jacksonville coach Crystal Scott singled out Asiah Williams and Emily Lovercheck as two players that stood out on Thursday.

“Those two played a lot last year but they’re going to have to play bigger roles this season,” said Scott. “Asiah Williams had a really good day in particular. Alexis had to catch a flight after the first game and she’ll be gone for two weeks. But we’re going to rely a lot on her. Right now we don’t have a true point guard, and she’s the one that’s probably going to have to take on that responsibility. She ran the point for me in ninth grade so I know she can do it, but I’d rather put her at the two.”

All three teams and seven others, will convene for another camp at Jacksonville next Thursday, then will play at Beebe the following Tuesday.