GORDON LEE LADY TROJANS
just the one returning starter in Gracie, who has started the last two years, but we’ve lost 11 girls in the last two years. There are fewer upperclassmen this year than we’ve had in the past three years, at least when I have been the head coach, so we’re going to be depending on a lot of the younger kids to come in and help us out a lot.”
Mcelhaney said having a team with so much youth and inexperience can be a daily roller coaster ride.
“When you’re young, you ride a wave of having one really good day and feeling really good about it, and then have you a day when you tend to act young,” he said. “We’ve got to learn to play at a speed higher than what they are used to. The high school game is going to speed up for some of them and they are going to have to be ready for the kind of defensive pressure that you see when you play good basketball teams. They have to be ready to step up and meet that kind of pressure.
“But we’ve built ourselves for the past three years as a team that’s going to press and play man-to-man and we don’t want to change what we do. We just need these girls to buy into that and step up.”
Senior Shelby Wilson has been in the program for a while and will be getting her shot on the varsity after biding her time on the JV squad. She will play at a guard spot, while Kelsey Lee, fresh off a state championship run on the softball team, is an outstanding athlete who is giving basketball a try for the first time. She is still working on her skills, but has proven to be a solid on-the-ball defender.
O’neal (9.8 points, 9.6 rebounds a year ago) will anchor the junior class. O’neal can play just about any position on the floor and will be counted on heavily in all aspects of the game, while the rest of the juniors are all in their third year with the Gordon Lee program and are all being counted on even more this season.
Post player Mallory Jones has a good shooting touch and will be counted on for scoring once she recovers from a current injury. Taylor Hunley is a hard-working athlete that doesn’t mind mixing it up. She will likely play at the 2 or 3-spot, while Sadie Gasaway, who played point guard as a freshman on the JV squad, is now being asked to play in the post. However, Mcelhaney believes that her ball-handling skills will still come into play in fast-break opportunities in transition.
The sophomore class consists of just two players in Ashlyn Schmidt and Addison Sturdivant. Schmidt played point guard on the JV team last yearn and is being asked to fill that same role on the varsity team this time around, while Sturdivant is an outstanding athlete that will be able to do a number of different things at a number of different positions.
The rest of the roster will be made up of a group of freshmen that will be depended upon early and often at the varsity level. That group will feature sisters Star and Skye Alexander, Emma Langston, Emma Mcgraw, Macy Sharp, Mila Smith, Samantha Cramer and Anniston Hudson.
“They are going to be thrown into the fire early on and they are going to have to step up,” Mcelhaney stated. “They have the ability to do it if they just continue to work. We’re going to have some growing pains early with this group, but they’re going to be okay. It just depends how much they’re willing to work.”
Former Lady Trojan Molly Thomison is back to help coach the team for a second straight season, while the new face on the bench will be Chris King.
Mcelhaney said he thinks his team’s athleticism will be at strength.
“We’re not very tall, but I think there are some really good athletes who are going to be extremely good basketball players,” the coach continued. “Once we figure out the speed of the game, we’re going to be okay. They’re young but talented, so we just have to get better every single day. If we can do that, we are going to be in good shape.”
Versatile junior Gracie O’neal will be a go-to player for the Lady Trojans this season as they look to get back to the Class A Public School state tournament.