Bravettes expecting defense to lead the way
Not many coaches look forward to replacing the kind of scoring, rebounding and ball handling that Bonner Springs girls basketball coach Garold Baker will be forced to replace because of the graduation of standout guard Nyse Pinks.
But Baker is actually excited about the challenge, as he prepares his team for what promises to be an interesting and exciting season of Bravettes basketball.
While Baker admits that losing Pinks will be tough to overcome in some areas, particularly scoring, he contends that her departure might actually help the team overall.
"For the first time in a long time, we're entering the season unsure of where our points are going to come from," Baker said. "Obviously Nyse will be missed on the offensive end. She was a terrific scorer. But I've already seen a change in attitude from the girls I've got playing. They're approaching the game in a different way."
Content at times to stand around and watch as Pinks took over games last season, this year's group will not only have to change its attitude, but also the way it plays.
As all of Baker's teams do, this year's squad will earn its wins by playing hard-nosed, intensity-driven defense. But more than ever, Baker said his squad will rely on that type of defense to produce easy buckets.
The off-season departure of long-time assistant John Rost, whose emphasis was placed on coaching offense, will only add to the team's dedication to defense. In fact, Baker said sarcastically that he told the girls at the beginning of practices they'd spend about 10 minutes on offense and two hours on defense at each practice.
"Stronger defense and much better rebounding, that will be our emphasis this year, particularly early on," Baker said. "We'll probably put ourselves in situations where we stay in our full court press more and make it an advantage for us. We've got the personnel to press all game, because we're deep on the bench and we have a group of girls who like to get after it."
Although they lost Pinks, the Bravettes will return four players who received considerable minutes last season.
Seniors Chase Crouch and Ashley Venerable will be looked to for leadership and defensive intensity, and both are the kind of players that like to lead by example.
Crouch, who figures to start at point guard, has emerged as a vocal leader, as well. Her defensive skills place her among the league's best, and Baker's hoping another point guard will emerge so Crouch can move over to the shooting guard slot and provide an offensive punch, as well.
Joining Crouch as one to be counted on to pick up the slack for Pinks' departure is junior Hilary Johnson. Johnson is the team's leading returning scorer, and she owns the school record for three-pointers made in a single contest. Known primarily as a sharp-shooter from behind the arc, Johnson will be asked to put the ball on the floor and create her shot more than in the past. However, Baker has the utmost confidence in his junior, and he's convinced she's ready for a breakthrough season.
"We have to get points from Hills," Baker said. "People are going to know her, so she's going to have to do more than stand out there and shoot threes. But I think she's up for the challenge, and I think we'll see a lot more from her this season."
Inside, the Bravettes will feature a pair of multi-dimensional post players in Venerable and sophomore Taryn Lane. Venerable is an extremely hard worker and a true spark plug in the paint, who rips down rebounds as if she stood 6-feet or taller. Any scoring from AV will be icing, but she will be relied upon heavily for her defense, rebounding and energy.
Lane, who started as a freshman, will look to join Johnson in stepping up with a breakout season. Baker said Lane's been shooting the ball extremely well thus far, and despite her size, Baker is expecting to utilize her around the perimeter to throw off opposing defenses.
However, because she has good size and is a sound player, Baker is going to rely a lot on Lane to produce wherever she is on the floor.
"I expect T to be a year more mature," Baker said. "She learned a lot last year after being thrown into a tough situation. But this year, we have to have her produce offensively for us."
In addition to that foursome, the Bravettes will have plenty to go around them. Freshman Kelsey Stanbrough is expected to log serious minutes at the big guard or small forward positions and fellow freshmen Holly Luke and Chelsea Crouch also figure to suit up for the varsity squad, as well.
Returning varsity players Lisa Zarate, Sara Reyes and Stephanie Elmer, along with varsity newcomer Tiffany Starks, will provide depth in the backcourt and bring the kind of mindset Baker is looking for.
"We've already had some of the most get-after-it practices I've ever seen," Baker said. "We're small and we're not extremely fast, but we have a bunch of go-getters and I think you can do some things with that. You're not going to outwork this group."
The Bravettes open their season against Gardner-Edgerton at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3 at home.
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