Conference: 5A West
Coach: Tobin McCammon, second year at school
2011-12 record: 14-15, tied for fourth in the conference
Assistant coach: David Murray
Returning starters: Senior Aundrea Hardin (5-foot-8 center/forward) will return to start for the Panthers this season. McCammon looked to Hardin last season for her 3-point shooting ability. After starting as a sophomore, Hardin brings a lot of experience to the squad. “She’ll definitely assume that leadership role this year,” McCammon said.
Best inside players: McCammon again points to Hardin as one of the strongest the team has inside. She’s a solid rebounder, averages around 7 points per game, and the coach considers her a “weapon up front.”
Best outside players: Junior Autumn Russell (5-5 guard) and senior Bailey Reynolds (5-4 guard) both have playing time under their belts from last year, and the coach will look to them to help guide the young team.
How will you match/exceed/fall short of your success from last year? “We lost four senior starters, so we are going to be very inexperienced,” McCammon said. The team has a big group of sophomore players coming up, which could speak well for the next couple years. “I’ve got not idea right now how things will pan out, but I like our kids,” McCammon said. “They work hard and will hopefully develop to their fullest potential.”
Team strengths: The coach will be looking to the team’s strong 3-point shooters to help boost scores this season and feels especially confident about the girls’ ability on defense.
Team weaknesses: Having a large sophomore class means dealing with a lack of experience. “We’re still at the stage where we’re trying to get our feet under us,” McCammon said. Improving ballhandling will also be a focus of early practices. Last year, the coach believed the team struggled with consistency on the road and hopes the team will tighten its focus this season.
Games to watch: Both Shiloh Christian and Clarksville are new to the conference this year, so McCammon is eager to see what those teams will have to offer.
Toughest opponent: “I wouldn’t say we have one particular rival or game,” McCammon said. “For us, it’s trying to crack that top four. This league is really good, and it always has been.”
College prospects: None.
In a nutshell: With many of the girls on his team still participating in volleyball, McCammon is still getting a feel for this year’s team. “What will determine our level of success will be how well our kids come together and play as a team,” McCammon said. “We have some competitive kids, and I like our potential. It is my expectation to compete for a playoff spot within our conference.” Rather than worry about overall results, McCammon is putting a focus on the process this year. “We’re going to need to bring our A-game every night,” he said.
Conference: 5A West
Coach: Jason Johnson, 10th year at school
Assistant coaches: Brad Bangs, Danny Myatt and Joel Luckadoo
2010-11 record: 3-19, seventh place in conference
Returning starters: Seniors Seth Peters (6-foot-0 guard) and Kyle Cain (6-4 forward); and junior Malik Wright (6-1 guard) will all start for the Panthers again this season.
Best inside players: Cain brings experience and endurance as a returning senior. Johnson looks to him to step out and shoot from the 3-point range when he needs to. Look for junior Logan Horvath (6-5) to stand out for his unselfish playing and speed, Johnson said. Despite only being a sophomore, Sam Colbert (6-2) makes an impact with an impressive 15-foot jump shot.
Best outside players: Johnson is lucky to have a large group doing well on the outside, including returning senior Peters, who averages 6 to 8 points per game and has a solid pull-up jump shot. Junior Jordan Wilcox (5-11 guard) is a strong 3-point shooter for the team, while junior Gerrel Williamson (5-7 guard) brings the speed. Johnson will also look to sophomore Cole Dixon (5-10 guard) for his strength and attitude. Juniors Hunter Havens (6-1 guard) and Connor Barnard (5-9 point guard) round out the team’s strong outside players, each a value to Johnson for his good attitudes and hustle.
How will you match/exceed/fall short of your success from last year? Johnson is looking for this year’s team to learn from the mistakes made last season. “We will have to pay more attention to details in practice and make each other better on the floor,” Johnson said.
Team strengths: This year’s team has a good squad of juniors and seniors who banked plenty of playing time last year. Johnson hopes that experience, combined with a good attitude, will bring wins this season.
Team weaknesses: Johnson points to shooting as one area that needs improvement, as well as the team’s overall strength.
Games to watch: Games against Vilonia will get heated, thanks to a school rivalry. The annual “Battle at the Brier” basketball tournament at Greenbrier is also a highlight of the season. “[It’s a] great atmosphere,” Johnson said.
Toughest opponent: New to the conference this year, Clarksville will prove a challenge after winning two straight state titles in Class 4A. Johnson also points to Alma as a strong competitor with three starters back from a conference championship team.
College prospects: None.
In a nutshell: “We want to win more games than last year,” Johnson said. “To have a winning record is my goal. It will take us winning most, if not all, of our close games. We have to find a way to win, … whatever it takes, even if means that some guys don’t score to allow others the opportunity.”