2011-12 Basketball: A.L. Brown girls preview
By Ryan Bisesi
KANNAPOLIS ó New A.L. Brown coach Mike Wolford has a big job ahead of him
He hasnít coached in two years, but his mission is to make a under-the-radar Wonders team realize its capability. Wolford thinks Brown has the potential to make noise in the SPC and he isnít shy about declaring its goals.
ěWe want to finish in the top three this year,î Wolford said. ěWe have the potential to win the conference.î
Brown is stockpiled with sufficient talent and it getting used to a new coaching staff trying to build a program. Fortunately, Wolford feels like the process has been accelerated from the team buying in to the staffís methods just two weeks into preseason practice. Although he hasnít coached in two years, Wolford was an assistant under former coach Tosha Pullen.
ěIt is kind of a rebuilding year,î Wolford said. ěFor me to get used to the girls and for them to get used to me. I feel like weíre ahead of the curve right now.î
Wolford takes over a team that was middle of the pack the last two years in the SPC and had no all-conference players, but keeps an upbeat demeanor when talking about this year.
ěWe lost five or six seniors that graduated,î Wolford said. ěBut our junior class is real strong. I like what we have returning.î
The Wonders boast four seniors in Champagne Brice, Endia Cannon, Scottie Lane and Sara Tuttle.
The staff is high on the defensive press, which has looked proficient in scrimmages. Wolford says the floor at Brown is bigger than most places the Wonders play and hope to use that to its advantage.
ěIf teams canít handle the ball or canít handle the press, thatís what theyíre going to get,î Wolford said.
Wolford says junior Aaliyah Spears has conference player of the year potential. Last year, Spears was the leading scorer, averaging 12.3 points per game.
ěSheís kind of a do-it-all,î Wolford said. ěSheís definitely the coach on the floor for us. Sheís a real good shooter and sees the floor.î
Tuttle is a 5-foot-9 guard that enters her senior year as a four-year varsity player. She can shoot and defend pretty well. Cannon can work in the post as well as the wing and is one of the better defenders and harder workers on the team.
Raven Phifer is a junior that plays power forward, but can extend her range out to the perimeter.
Brice has experience with Wolford when he was an assistant. And Bianca Smith is a junior that can provide size in her first year on varsity.
Aitana Grant is the rosterís lone freshman with a bevy of possibilities. Grant, a guard/forward combo, will be a contributor off the bench in her first year. Wolford says heís excited by her, but her basketball skills need toning. Grant played on Wolfordís travel team, the Kannapolis Comets. This summer, Grant had 28 points on 14 layups in a scrimmage.
ěShe is probably the best female athlete we have at A.L. Brown,î Wolford said. ěSheís long, athletic and she can jump out of the gym. She is a not a basketball player yet and sheís still learning.î
Smith is experiencing her first year on the varsity team after working out with them in camps during the summer. In the post, sophomores Tiera Grier and Bailey Vernon will add solid defense with long frames.
ěWe want to get out and run if we can, but weíre also willing to grind it out if the competition dictates that,î Wolford said. ěItís really on a game-by-game basis.î
Brown finished fifth in the SPC last year behind Concord, Robinson, Hickory Ridge and Northwest Cabarrus. The Wonders upset Jay M. Robinson, played Concord close and fell late against Parkwood in the first round of the playoffs.
ěTheyíre really buying in,î Wolford said. ěWeíve had real good numbers at workouts during the summer. The girls are real excited to come to work every day.î
Dean Vernon and Joey Chapman are assistant coaches.
ěThis staffís been together since late spring,î Wolford said. ěWeíve been practicing, having the girls in the weight room, going to team camps at UNCC. Weíre not at the very bottom, but it is a rebuilding year for me to get used to the girls and the girls to get used to me.î