Prep Basketball Preview: South Rowan girls
By Mike London
LANDIS ó Time flies, and deer-in-the-headlights freshmen become savvy seniors in a hurry.
Ninth-graders play varsity ball only if they’re really good or desperately needed, and South Rowan’s Taylor May qualified on both counts three years ago.
May had to work out her freshman jitters in varsity games with lots of people watching. In 2005-06, she threatened world records for turnovers, missed 10-footers and dazed expressions.
Instead of strangling May, coach Jim Brooks sat her down and let her watch veteran Adrianné Alexander roll up her sleeves and go to work.
Alexander lacked May’s variety of skills, but she scored double figures through tenacity and never got flustered.
May watched Alexander, and now she’s a senior who combines skills, strength and work ethic in a 6-foot package that made her worthy of signing with Catawba.
This season, whenever Brooks has to sit down a youngster after a bad play, he’ll tell her to keep her head up and her eyes fixed on May.
“I guess every team has its do-all girl, and Taylor’s ours,” Brooks said. “Rebound, shoot, bring the ball up. The offense will go through her.”
May helped South go 13-13 last season. The Raiders, who tied for fifth in the NPC, had their best season since 2002 and qualified for the 3A state playoffs.
May is 18th on South’s all-time scoring list with 628 points, and she could become the eighth girl to score 1,000 points for South. This is the Raiders’ 48th season of basketball, so that’s pretty select company.
May’s scoring averages have gone in the right direction annually ó 8.1, 10.3, 11.2. Now Brooks needs her to get 15 a night if South is going to win its share in the NPC.
Brooks needs more consistency than he got in 2007-08, when May struggled through early games with an injury. She scored 27 twice and 25 once, but she also had games of 0, 2 and 3.
If May scores 0, 2 or 3 this time, it’s going to get ugly.
When May misfired last winter, Katherine Van Wieren was always there to pick up the pieces. Or maybe Katie Wise was there. Or Kim Wilson. All three “K” girls graduated, as did defensive-minded Lauren Houston.
If you’ve followed South in recent seasons, you may not recognize the latest edition of the Raiders. South boys coach John Davis jokes that for a change the Raider girls will actually be shorter than South’s boys team.
“It’ll be a different style for us,” Brooks said. “We’ll be shorter, but we also should be able to play more athletic, play faster. We’ll see.”
May will be the biggest Raider on the floor instead of the third-biggest, and she isn’t slow. An athlete with good spring, she’s been the county’s dominant volleyball hitter the past two seasons.
Kayla Morrow, May’s sidekick on the most successful volleyball team in school history, is counted on as South’s other starting post player.
Morrow, a junior, isn’t as tall as May, but she’s in the same ballpark athletically and should be an excellent rebounder.
“Kayla’s another strong kid, and we can put her on the block and take a lot of pressure off Taylor,” Brooks said. “There’s a world of difference between jayvee and varsity, but she’ll catch up to the speed of the game quickly.”
Brooks joked Morrow has to guard May in every drill at every practice, so she’s ready to take on someone else ó anyone else.
Senior Nikki Graham returns in the backcourt after providing good production. Like May, she was streaky, but she scored in double figures eight times and averaged 7.6 points a game. When she’s on, she’ll chuck ó and make ó from NBA 3-point range.
“She helps us a ton on the defensive end with her quickness,” Brooks said. “She’s getting after it.”
Senior Krista Haywood played a lot last season. She’s not a shooter, but she provides defense and speed.
“We’re really hoping our basketball program gets some bounce off what the volleyball team did, and Krista just had a killer volleyball season,” Brooks said. “They got used to winning, and that’s not a bad thing.”
Senior Molly Garrett, yet another volleyball player, figures to join May and Morrow on the frontline. She was in the rotation last season and contributed 2.4 points a game.
“Molly’s strong, helps on the boards and she can make that 15-foot shot,” Brooks said. “When that ball rotates to her, Molly is willing to shoot it.”
There won’t be much experience on the bench, so the Raiders have to avoid injuries and foul trouble. Katie Roberts and Whitney Haywood, Krista’s cousin, are seniors returning from last season, but neither has seen a lot of game action.
“Whitney can score in the lane, while Katie is a banger and a hustler,” Brooks said. “They’ll get that tough rebound or get on the floor for a loose ball.”
Junior point guard Whitney Ashley gives Brooks an additional ballhandler.
“She can run the team, get us in an offense,” Brooks said. “She learned a whole lot this summer.”
Libby Sides, another junior, provides speed and will be an important addition.
“She’s an athlete who can shoot it dead-on, and she can play a lot of different positions,” Brooks said.
Sam Goins, a sophomore, reminds Brooks of a shorter, younger version of May and figures to be in the rotation right away.
“Sam’s defense has improved 100 percent from the first day, and she is going to be good,” Brooks said. “She has that unique ability to take the ball off the glass and go, and she’ll usually makes something positive happen.”
Things may not go smoothly for Goins every night, but that will give her opportunities to sit next to Brooks and learn by watching May.