2009-2010 Basketball: South Rowan girls preview

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 24, 2009

By Mike London
LANDIS ó Few programs in the state have improved in each of the past five seasons, but South Rowan’s girls belong in that select group.
The growth chart for the Raiders reads 1-22, 7-17, 8-17, 13-13 and 15-12. Coach Jim Brooks, the man who loved Hawaiian shirts, stepped down to well-deserved applause after 15-12.
Six seniors, including four starters ó Taylor May, Krista Haywood, Nikki Graham and Molly Garrett ó exited along with Brooks, so it will be a brand new look this season.
The revised appearance starts on the bench with rookie coach Jarrod Smith, an integral part of the program for years as the jayvee coach.
“No predictions because we know we’re young,” said Smith, who serves as South’s O-line coach during football season. “But we hope to build on the success Brooks had.”
South usually suited up nine players for varsity games last season, eight after Graham went down with a season-ending knee injury. That doesn’t leave a lot of returners.
Coming back are starting post player Kayla Morrow, junior forward Sam Goins, who started some, and guard Libby Sides, who was one of the top reserves and played in every game.
Nicole Barringer moved up from the jayvees for the Christmas tournament, while Krista Swartz finished the year with the varsity after the jayvees ended their season. They’re the fourth and fifth most experienced players.
The Raiders aren’t big and aren’t exceptionally quick, but the No. 1 concern is point guard. If you don’t have a reliable ballhandler, you can’t compete at the varsity level because good teams will press you to death and shoot layups.
“I think we’re pretty athletic, I think we can run the floor and I think we can shoot the ball outside OK,” Smith said. “But it still comes down to how we come along at point guard. We’ve got two sophomores working there.”
Brooks’ last two teams managed to win 28 games without a pure point because Graham had speed, Haywood competed like crazy and May could bring the ball down against a big girl in a pinch.
Smith is optimistic Asia Caple or Lauren “Goose” Miller can develop into that point guard who gives the Raiders a chance ó or it may be a combination of the two.
Miller hurt her thumb at the beginning of last season on the jayvees and has hurt her ankle already this year. The Raiders need her healthy.
A 76-34 loss opening night to a quick, pressing A.L. Brown team was probably the worst matchup possible for South and showed how vulnerable the Raiders will be until their ballhandlers gain confidence and experience.
If South can get the ball into the offensive end, it has a reasonable chance to score.
Morrow is athletic, one of the county’s best jumpers, a pretty good medium-range shooter and a physical defender in the post.
“Kayla’s just got to stay out of foul trouble,” Smith said. “She’s as athletic as anyone, but she’s got to play defense with her feet, not her hands.”
Morrow, a senior headed to Lenoir-Rhyne on a volleyball scholarship, missed four games with a shoulder injury last season. She averaged 6.0 points, including five outings in double figures. She scored 17 in a close victory against Northwest Cabarrus.
Goins (4.6 points per game) can get hot offensively and had scoring efforts of 10, 11, 13 and 14 in NPC games. She’s an aggressive driver and will go coast-to-coast if she gets the chance.
Sides (2.2 points per game) shoots the ball better than her scoring average would indicate and can also finish inside.
Smith points at post player Chelsea McManus as a potential standout among the newcomers. She missed the opener after suffering a concussion. Smith expects her to be medically cleared on Nov. 24.
“Chelsea is really aggressive and really skilled,” Smith said.
Smith said Barringer averaged 15 points for his jayvees last year. She has a nice-looking release on her outside shot. So do Caple and Swartz. If those three can make 3s for the Raiders, it will help Morrow and Goins find room in the paint.
Swartz, who missed a big chunk of last season with a serious knee injury, was pretty unlucky opening night against the Wonders. She had several decent looks go in-and-out.
“She’s a good player,” Smith said. “We had her healthy for the last seven jayvee games last year and she made a big difference.”
Guard Taylor Lookabill and forward Amber Waldroup, volleyball/softball players who haven’t played basketball the last two seasons, have returned to the court. They played jayvee ball for Smith as freshmen and they’re good enough athletes to help.
Aggressive sophomore Kayla Corriher, daughter of 30-year Raider football coach Tim Corriher, will be in the rotation and should get her share of rebounds and stickbacks.
Other newcomers include senior Anne Mabry and juniors Brooke Stancil, Kaitlin Weber and Jasmine Bost.
Mabry has done well in track, Stancil has run cross country and Weber is a promising softball player, so Smith has assembled a good group of athletes.
“You’re still only as good as your point guard,” he said. “That first game showed us that we’ve got a lot of work to do, but Kannapolis was a good team to learn from.”