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2011-12 Basketball: West Rowan girls preview

By Ryan Bisesi
rbisesi@salisburypost.com
MOUNT ULLA ó This being his first year and all, West Rowan girls basketball coach Todd McNeely isnít comfortable making predictions just yet.
Except for one.
ěI think weíll have the highest GPA,î McNeely said. ěA lot of my players are good student-athletes. We have a lot of A-B students.î
If heís right, that should help the Falcons and their learning curve, digesting new schemes and tendencies from a first-year coach. McNeely is replacing four-year coach Erich Epps in his first foray into being a head coach in a high school setting.
ěWe went through our culture change of coaches and offense and all that,î McNeely said. ěThey understand that weíre going to play as a team and theyíve grasped that fact.î
The Falcons lost Ayana Avery, the leading scorer in school history, but return a bevy of players from an 18-10 season that included a 7-5 NPC record. Nine juniors, three seniors and one sophomore make up the Falconsí roster. For McNeely, itíll be a wait-and-see approach.
ěWeíre going to be an unknown commodity to people,î McNeely said. ěAnd ourselves maybe.î
But he isnít clueless, and neither are the Falcons who are still a worthy team with their personnel.
Junior Shay Steele is the leading returning scorer at 13.3 points a game last year. The 6-foot-2 all-county forward has drawn interest from multiple Division I schools already and took in camps throughout the summer.
ěSheís long,î McNeely said. ěShe knows the game and is showing good leadership. Sheís got basketball smarts.î
Point guard Nene Dixon was a blue chipper as a freshman and has solid upside going into her sophomore year. Dixon averaged 11.2 points per game last season and had a season-best 25 points in a win against South Rowan. Dixon is related to former county standouts Marvin and Carlos Dixon.
ěSheís got great speed, good ballhandling and is a good scorer,î said McNeely of the sophomore.
Look for the majority of scoring to come from Steele and Dixon, who could one of the NPCís more lethal inside-outside threats.
ěWeíre going to run an offense where the point guard brings it down and after that, Iíve got three people that can be at the top at any time,î McNeely said.
He wants to implement a quick offensive mindset that utilizes Dixonís ball-handling and speed at the point. The Falcons tried out the new offense when they scrimmaged Mooresville last week.
ěOur best attribute is speed,î McNeely said. ěWeíre going to have an up-tempo offense and defense.î
McNeely hopes his team can equal last yearís record and be playoff-bound. In 2010-2011, West averaged 59 points a game while surrendering 48. The Falcons fell to Charlotte Harding in the second round of the playoffs.
Amber Holloway, who suffered a torn achilles last year and missed her junior season, is focusing on track, foregoing basketball.
ěYes, we have five starters, but I feel like everybody behind them is capable of starting at one place or the other,î said McNeely, who kept 13 players. ěSome girls will just be defenders and they know thatís their job.î
North Iredell is the conference favorite again and Carson is expected to be a contender with West. The Falcons were third in the league last year behind North and Carson.
ěOur backcourtís going to be quick,î McNeely said. ěIf youíre going to be an above- average team and youíre going to make any kind of noise in the playoffs, youíve got to be a good defensive team. Weíre still working on that.î
Alison Dutton, a 6-1 center, hopes to emerge as a senior leader after getting minutes in nearly all West games last season.
ěShe will be a presence in the middle by the end of the year,î McNeely said. ěShe has a good little elbow shot. Weíre still working on her offensive game.î
Junior Alison Sobataka, who McNeely deems a good all-around player, will be the shooting guard. Sobataka was a consistent starter and solid defender for the Falcons last year.
McNeely said he will obtain a forward-by-committee stance with Tabitha Ball, Brittney Barber and Chelsea Hunter seeing playing time .
ěItís dependent upon which team we play,î McNeely said. ěIf weíre playing a bigger team, we may go big. Against a smaller team, we have the option of going smaller and quicker.î
Off the bench, juniors Brooke Harrington, Christa Landry, Lyric Ramsue and Niakeya James will all see time in the backcourt. Key James and Lyric Ramsue provide depth at forward.
Brittany Chester will be an assistant coach and Matt Randolph will volunteer for McNeely, who anticipates the team better understanding his system with some games under their belt.
ěYou play Lake Norman, Salisbury, North, Davie all right there before Christmas,î McNeely said. ěWeíll know what weíve got by then.î

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