In his 12 seasons as head girls’ basketball coach at Carroll County, Marc Motley can only remember freshmen starting a total of four games. This year’s version of the Cavaliers will be so young Carroll County will most likely start two freshmen in the season opener.
The Cavaliers lost six seniors from last year’s Region IV semifinalist squad and return just one starter, senior guard Megan Alderman. Sixth man and Honorable mention All-Southwest District forward Crysta Guynn also returns after averaging 7.7 points and 3.6 rebounds last year and leading the team with 40 3-pointers.
“We basically have one starter and two kids with any varsity experience, and three sophomores who played as freshmen, but played very little,” Motley said. “It is very challenging right now. There is a lot more teaching than practicing right now, which is fine with me. I have no problem with that. I have two seniors who have played for four years and they are doing a really good job helping these young ones along right now. They understand where I’m coming from, what I want to do defensively, and getting these young ones in the right spots.”
Compounding the matter is an injury to Alderman, who was second on the team in assists last year with three per game. She also scored four points and grabbed four rebounds per contest. She also led the team in steals and showed her versatility by finishing second in the team in blocks.
“She’s trying to work through it, but she is a tough kid,” Motley said. “I’d say she will find a way to get herself out there to play if at all possible.”
Also returning from last year’s varsity squad are sophomores Sami Reece, Rylee Haynes and Maycee Cain. Cain hasn’t practiced yet due to an injury, Motley said. Haynes averaged 2.5 points and 2 rebounds per game last season, while Cain and Reece each averaged one point and one rebound per outing.
And while the Cavaliers will be lacking in experience in 2013-14, Motley’s crew certainly won’t be lacking for talent. Juniors Allison Amstutz and Sara Bobbitt move up from the JV team this year. Sophomores Gracie Davidson, Carlie McMillian and Haley Turman join freshmen Mattie Kennedy and Keely Lundy on the varsity.
“The ninth graders and the 10th graders coming up that didn’t play varsity last year didn’t lose a game in in 8th grade and JV the last two years. They’ve won about 45 straight games,” Motley said. “Both freshmen will have big impacts on this team. Right now both are both in starting lineup.”
To put that in perspective, Motley can only remember two other freshmen who have ever started for him at Carroll. Kayla Goins started three games as a freshman and Lindsay Martin started once as a 9th grader, he said. Both now play college basketball at Ferrum College.
“But those were junior- and senior-laden teams, not like this group. We will play freshmen and sophomores this year because they have played together their whole lives,” Motley said.
With a large number of talented guards, Motley said the Cavaliers will run a faster pace than normal this season, even putting five-guard lineups on the floor at times. Lundy and Kennedy will both be major factors in that style of play.
“We really want to get the ball up and down the floor faster. We shoot the ball well from outside like we have in the past. I feel like we could possibly have two of the best 3-point shooters in our conference in Keely and Crysta,” Motley said. W “We have to have kids who can get in the lane, find open shooters and attack the basket. And we are trying to do that before the defense gets set.”
Although Lundy can put up big scoring numbers, Motley said she will arguably be the team’s best passer along with Alderman. It also doesn’t hurt that she is 5-9.
“She sees the floor well and makes great decisions. She just plays a lot older than she is, and so does Mattie. She doesn’t play as a ninth grader,” Motley said. “I realize we don’t have a lot of players with a lot of playing time coming back, but I feel like we are pretty talented. If we learn how to play, we have a good shot at going a long way.”
Kennedy and Alderman will man the point guard position for Carroll, but both will be on the floor as much as possible. At 5-8, Kennedy gives the Cavaliers a tall guard who can also defend the post.
“She is tall and strong and can guard post players. She is very versatile,” Motley said. “It will only make her better having the ball in her hands most of the time.”
Motley also expects Turman to make an immediate impact at the varsity level. She will be fighting for a starting position in the post along with Reece.
“She’s a 5-9 post player who runs the floor tremendously. I really love her effort,” Motley said. “She and Sami will be fighting for the starting five spot, but both will play. Haley gives us some of the things Sami doesn’t. She runs well, defends, and can guard guards if she has to. Sammie scores well in the low post with her back to the basket, so either one could start depending on matchups.”
Motley said he feels like this team really has six starters between Alderman, Guynn, Kennedy, Lundy and either Turman or Reece.
“And Rylee Haynes is probably like a sixth starter,” Motley said. “I feel completely comfortable with her playing anywhere but the five spot.”
Like all of Carroll County’s athletic programs, the Cavaliers will be making the move to the powerful River Ridge District this year. Motley loves the competition his team will see, although he thought the Southwest continued to get stronger each year, especially with Richlands going to the state final four each of the past three seasons.
“Honestly, I love the competition. I feel like we can compete right now in the River Ridge even though we are young. We have to play well, but we can compete. I love going to Roanoke and letting these kids get the exposure. I love them being able to go and get that exposure and play in a bigger venue, so I have no qualms with it whatsoever,” Motley said. “We are really young, but I feel like we are still very talented. We are struggling right now to understand the game a little and that is mainly from a defensive perspective. I have to realize they are very young and it is a process. But if I can be patient and they can be patient, I think we will be pretty good by February.”
Carroll County will certainly get a stout test right off the bat as it opens the season with defending Group A, Division 2 state champion Floyd County in Hillsville on Dec. 2.