Without a senior on the roster for the 2011 season, the Lady Knight varsity basketball team at Tyler Consolidated looks to have a break-out, rebuilding year. Three juniors, five sophomores and five freshmen will make up the varsity/JV squads for the Silver and Black, five of whom return with real varsity experience.
"We don't have an abundance of players, but the ones we do have want to be here and are working extremely hard, and that makes a difference in any program," said Lady Knight head coach, Matt Kinnard. "Sometimes low numbers have an adverse effect on a team, but I don't see that as being the case for us. Our girls want to be on the court, they want to play and with only five positions available, 13 is a good number to work with."
Returning with experience to the Knight line-up are juniors Allison Wable (5'9"), Torrye Cline (5'7"), and Courtney Daughtery (6') and sophomores Sophie Kinnard (6'), Sydney Reed (5'8"), and Hilary Casteel (5'7").
"These five saw a lot of varsity time last year," Kinnard said. "We'll look to them for control and presence on the court, it'll be a nice balance with our younger kids."
Making up the remainder of the roster for Consolidated will be sophomores Myah Charkawi and Emily Knowlton and freshmen Sydney Yoho, Tiffany Spencer, Haleigh Smith, Hannah Thomas and Brianna Yeater.
"Like I said, the girls have been working hard in the pre-season," said the coach. "We had a good summer and a few played fall ball. Any out-of-season playing they did will add to our game."
The Silver and Black will field a junior varsity team and hope to get several of the younger players on the team some much needed real-game experience in these games. But it is a more than likely scenario that the majority of the players will see time in varsity situations.
The main weakness Kinnard and assistant coach Bob West foresee in the season will be the lack of depth, due to the low numbers. "It's a concern of course, but one that we can deal with. Our young kids are going to have to mature quickly and several of them will find themselves in the mix before they are ready, but that's way you learn."
"We do not play an easy schedule by any means and there are going to be times when we're not going to know which way to turn, but I have a lot of confidence in these kids. We're going to surprise a few people."
The Lady Knights will not be the same "type" of team fans of the game have been used to seeing in years past either. A quicker, more fundamentally sound team will take the court this season, shooting more and with better endurance than expected, striving to improve on last years 8-13 record.
"Our shooting has vastly improved from last year," the coach commented as a major strength of the team. "We've had two scrimmages so far and we're shooting more than 40 percent."
"Our ball handling is better than it has been, we're quicker, making better decisions with the ball and it all comes from working on fundamentals every single day at practice, no matter what level you are."
"We don't have a lot of height, so fundamentals and defensive principals will make up for that."
"We're going in the right direction. We have high expectations and have set goals that we expect to meet. We know where we want to be as a team."
The Lady Knights will take the court in brand new uniforms this year, thanks to the generosity of the Knight Boosters Club.
"We really do appreciate the new uniforms," Kinnard said. "It's a new team, a new season and it's great for the girls to know they're important enough to deserve new uniforms."
Tyler Consolidated began their season on Dec. 3 at Ravenswood. On Dec. 8 the team will host their first home game when they welcome the Lady Blue Devils of St. Marys. Game time is set for 6 p.m.
Without senior leadership one may believe that the Lady Knights will be adrift in a sea of class A/AA basketball teams without a captain to steer, but this far from the reality of the situation. Kinnard, West and the 13 young ladies making up the 2011 squad have a game plan that includes fundamentals, change, fundamentals, opportunity, and fundamentals.
They are going to be just fine.