ON THE COVER: Player to watch - Breylin SmithREAD ONLINE
Atkins Lady Red DevilsPublished October 27, 2013 at 5:00 a.m.
Coach: Craig Pinion, third year with Atkins girls after 10 years with Atkins boys
Assistant coach: Ben Miller
2012-13 record: 10-12 overall, fifth in conference
Returning starters: Senior Emily Ward, second-leading scorer last year, and juniors Keisha Bobo and Chey Reel. Ward will be a three-year starter. “We feel she has really developed into the leader we need her to be,” Pinion said. “She is stronger physically as well as mentally and has a much better grasp of the offense.” Bobo led the team in scoring as a sophomore. “She has been more dedicated to developing her game over the past offseason, and she has earned the green light from the coaching staff,” Pinion said. “She has gotten quicker and stronger, and we expect those traits to make her a more explosive player offensively.” The coach said Reel has developed more confidence in her perimeter shot, which should give the Lady Devils an added dimension.
Best inside players: Junior Bryanna Martin has possibly the softest touch on the team, Pinion said. “She can consistently hit the soft spot jumper and is an extremely physical player.” Junior Brooke Mitchell is finally 100 percent after her ACL repair. “Brooke gives us the ability to score in the paint and also brings a level of competitiveness and toughness we have lacked in the post,” the coach said.
Best outside players: Ward, Bobo, Reel and junior Alex Webb, the sixth man last season, who can play inside or out. “Alex is probably our strongest kid,” Pinion said. “She is an outstanding competitor and has a high basketball IQ.”
How will you match/exceed/fall short of your success from last year?: “The rebuilding process enters its third year, and I believe we are right on schedule,” Pinion said. “Offensively, we have more of our playbook in than we ever have, and the girls are starting to understand the game better. We are at a point in our journey where we can begin to concentrate more on trying to get specific matchups rather than just trying to survive.”
Team strengths: The Lady Red Devils are better students of the game than they have been in previous seasons of Pinion’s tenure. “We are by no means where we need to be, but we feel we are on the right track,” he said. “Our kids have shown tremendous commitment to the program.”
Team weaknesses: The Lady Red Devils have made consistent progress under Pinion, but they have yet to establish a winning tradition. That could come this year.
Games to watch: Pinion said outside of Paris, which would be the conference favorite, the rest of the league would be very balanced among Lamar, Mansfield, Danville, Charleston, Lavaca and Two Rivers.
Toughest opponent: Paris, which reached the quarterfinals of the Class 3A State Tournament.
College prospects: None at this time.
In a nutshell: “I really like this year’s team,” Pinion said. “They have good chemistry; they work hard; they are a little mischievous; they have shown a consistent desire to improve; and they are fun to be around. We hope we are in a position to challenge for a spot in the regional tournament.”