Prep Basketball Preview: Carson girls return everyone
Last season (16-12, 10-8 SPC, tied for 3rd)
Returning players: 11
Returning starters: 5
Coach: Brooke Misenheimer (11th season, 118-140)
By Mike London
Everyone is back for the Carson girls.
Literally … everyone.
Carson had a six-game winning streak and prevailed in 16 games without a single senior last season, and now coach Brooke Misenheimer has 11 returning veterans.
“Much is expected when you return everybody,” Misenheimer said. “It’s a close team. We’re hoping we can pick up where we left off.”
Misenheimer expects to employ a roster of 13. She’s added freshman guard Maci Cooper to the mix, while Shaleah Jolly was promoted from a winning jayvee team.
But Carson still will have pretty sound sophomores playing their second season of jayvee ball, and Misenheimer won’t have to rush the other freshmen. The program, which Misenheimer has guided since the school opened, is in good shape.
With so many people back, including All-Rowan County second team picks Olivia Gabriel, a junior guard, and McKenzie Gadson, a sophomore forward, it goes without saying that Carson hopes for a banner season.
“We’ve set big goals, and we’re motivated,” Misenheimer. “We believe we can achieve them.”
Still, it’s not like this is some unstoppable machine. Gabriel and Gadson are the only Cougars who have proven they can score consistently, so Carson is liable to see gimmick defenses — box-and-ones and triangle-and-twos.
This is also not a particularly explosive team. Nor is it an exceptionally big team.
The Cougars’ greatest asset is experience. They should be a good shooting team and a pretty good rebounding team and they are certain to be an above-average defensive team.
Gabriel is only 5-foot-3, but she pumped in 749 points in her first two seasons. She does a lot of her work with transition drives, either finishing or getting to the foul line.
She led the team in 3-pointers (32), assists (91) and steals (68) as a sophomore, but her shooting percentages (32 percent on 2s, 64 percent on free throws) weren’t exceptional.
“She had a really good summer,” Misenheimer said. “We need her to be our experienced point guard and to lead us on offense and defense.”
Gadson is listed at 5-8 but looks taller and plays longer.
She rarely shoots 3s but she shot an efficient 47 percent on 2s. She averaged 11.1 points and a team-best 7.4 rebounds and was a huge addition for the Cougars after her family moved from Florida.
“It was all new to her last year,” Misenheimer said. “Now she knows the system and she could have a breakout year. She’s long and she’s athletic. We need to get her the ball.”
The foul line could be the source of a lot more points for Gadson. She shot just 56 percent at the stripe last season. Carson shot 60 percent as a team.
While standouts Gabriel and Gadson are still young, Carson has four seniors.
Guard Destiny Jackson is returning from an ACL tear that wrecked her junior season and she’ll score some. She’s a streaky shooter and had a 17-point game last year.
Forward Micah Furr is another 3-point threat. She’s also a smart player who will box out and rebound.
Guard Kailie Ketchie was often Carson’s No. 3 scorer last year. She averaged 6.0 points per game.
Alijuandra Street will provide some high-energy minutes and rebounds.
“She goes hard and she’s kind of a bruiser,” Misenheimer said. “She’s also one of the best teammates I’ve ever coached.”
There are six juniors, including Siera Fesperman, who has been battling a knee injury.
At 5-11, Anne Marie Turney is the tallest Cougar. She scored in double figures three times last season and was the Cougars’ best foul shooter. She averaged 5.3 points per game.
Jolly and Taylor Wiggins are quick and will make their greatest impact on the defensive end. Wiggins was the county’s top cross country runner in the fall.
Sydney Taylor is just as tiny as Wiggins (both are 5 feet tall), but her skills stand out more on the offensive end. She’s a 3-point threat and had a 16-point explosion last season.
Maren Shumaker is an aggressive rebounder, a physical player who will cheerfully take a charge.
Gadson is the only varsity sophomore.
Cooper, the freshman, is yet another 5-footer. She brings some quickness, and Carson wants to run and press to take advantage of its depth.
“We’ll definitely want to play fast at times,” Misenheimer said. “But we’ve also got to understand when we need to slow things down.”
Players to watch:
Olivia Gabriel, 5-3 Jr. guard — She scored a school-record 39 points against South Rowan last season and topped 20 seven more times.
McKenzie Gadson, 5-8 soph. forward — Her career high of 23 points came in the Sam Moir Christmas Classic championship game loss to North Rowan. She missed three games in January with a concussion but came back strong.
Kailie Ketchie, 5-6 Sr. guard — Carson’s No. 3 scorer and No. 2 rebounder a year ago.
“She’s got a lot of tools,” Misenheimer said. “She can drive it and she can shoot it.”
Anne Marie Turney, 5-11 Jr. center — The Cougars desperately need Turney’s size and she has the potential to log some double-doubles.
Maren Shumaker, 5-8 Jr. forward — Shumaker won’t score a lot, but she provides grit and tenacity.
“She does the dirty work and she’s vocal,” Misenheimer said. “A lot of times she’s our voice on the floor.”