November 4, 2010 8:09:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School girls basketball coach Kristie Williams says her Lady Jackets will use an equal-opportunity approach to who scores, rebounds, and earns minutes this season.
With just one starter returning from a team that went 16-9 and reached the first round of the state playoffs last season, the Lady Jackets are making the most of their chance to impress.
Never is that more clear than in the backcourt, where the losses of starters Kala Williams and Shay Bonner has created an atmosphere of intense competition, Williams said.
Juniors Jacqueline Fair and Brittany Brown are pushing senior guards Jonissa Buchanan and Whitney Taylor for playing time at guard. Williams likens her collection of players to her 2005-06 squad, which had just one returning starter.
"It kind of (reminds me of 2005-2006) and how it was a total team effort," Kristie Williams said, "and how the scoring and rebounding numbers would change from game to game. I want us to always look at the fact that ''Starkville girls won that basketball game,'' instead of who scored the most points. There''s chances for all of them to contribute."
Senior post player Courtney Moore, who transferred from Indiana, is the team''s only returning starter. Last season, she averaged 9.6 points per game (team-best 651.8 percent shooting from the field) and 7.6 rebounds, but she did so with a pair of proven, double-digit scorers in the lineup. Moore now is the Lady Jackets'' first target, and she''s used a productive season of Amateur Athletic Union basketball to prepare for the weight of her last prep season.
"Playing around the country, it opened (Moore''s) eyes to see, ''I''m in the mix of being called one of the top-rated seniors,''" Williams said. "She''s a beast when she gets the ball in the paint and has a lot of natural ability. All I''m doing is trying to polish up those skills. People will be able to see that aspect of her game."
Moore admits 2009-10 was a down year, admitting she could have contributed more to a team that, at the very least, expected to reach the North State tournament.
"Over the summer, I''ve grown a lot with my post moves and jump shot," Moore said, "and mentally because coach is constantly on us. We have to make up our minds we can get over criticism to become the player we want to be."
Moore added an 18-foot jumper she can utilize off the dribble and coming off screens. The added confidence has made it easier for her voice to be heard as the team''s most experienced player.
She stressed the lack of pressure on her comes from the fact there are five other seniors on the club, including post player Rebecca Myles.
"We have these talks quite often, and coach tells us we have to be the leaders of the team," Moore said. "If anybody should be able to get up and down the floor and show leadership, it should be us. Because as many seniors as we have, we have just as many young players who need to develop. It''s a role we all share."
Myles was Kristie Williams'' first-choice forward off the bench last season, filling in for Moore and senior Laretha Williams. She averaged 2.6 points and 2.7 rebounds per game, but, like Moore, her production must increase this season.
Myles is nearly a month removed from her first season of volleyball, which she credits for her improved leaping and timing. The added stamina is a boost, too.
Knowing she would take on a greater role on the basketball court prompted Myles to work in the summer to improve her knowledge of the game and her defense. She looks forward to teaming with Moore to be a strength of the team.
"We''re interchangeable, so sometimes I may play the four and (Moore) the five, or we''ll switch," Myles said. "It doesn''t matter, and we can do what is needed. I think it''s very exciting because all of us have the ability to exceed more than what people think."
Williams has addressed the team''s conditioning level, which she feels held it back last season. Typically, that means running and more difficult conditioning tests, but she said the team has bought in to the concept.
"There were the mumbles among the team, but they understand the concept behind the hard conditioning we have very week," she said. "Hopefully, we''ll be an up-tempo team. To play that way, you have to have your endurance and stamina levels on the same page."
1. New Hope boys shock Oxford for region title HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. MSU baseball gives Cannizaro first career victory COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Tupelo squads sweep Columbus for pair of region titles HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
4. No. 3 MSU women face huge test at Texas A&M COLLEGE SPORTS
5. Area basketball teams begin postseason play Monday HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS