By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
NOC Enid’s women’s basketball team is expected to be bigger, stronger, faster and deeper than last year’s 24-8 team which repeated as the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference champions, despite being down to seven players at the end of the season.
It also will be younger, which brings a lot of question marks going into the season-opening Montgomery County Classic Friday and Saturday against Kansas powers Coffeyville and Independence.
Alva’s Rylie Swanson is the lone healthy returning sophomore going into the final week of the preseason.
“When we get all those pieces all working together we can be a fun team to watch and coach,’’ said Lady Jets head coach Scott Morris. “It’s going to take a little bit of time to get all those gears working together.’’
The Lady Jets must replace point guard Chelsea Bates, voted the league MVP, in addition to Marisha Wallace, now at Oklahoma State, and two others who went on to four-year colleges, Christa Beasler and Regan Crowl.
“The key for us will be learning how to play the game of basketball,’’ Morris said. “You’re taking 20 players from 20 different successful systems and re-teaching them to learn one system.
“With this many new players, you usually have five or six sophomores who can step in right away and run the show while the freshmen are learning. We don’t have that luxury this year. Our freshmen will be thrown into the fire. That might be a good thing, but it might delay the development one way or the other.’’
Swanson, who averaged 8.6 points and 7.7 rebounds as a freshman, has done a good job of taking charge in preseason scrimmages.
The rest of the sophomores are on the injured list, although Kati Sullivan (7.7 ppg) is expected to be cleared to play after missing the second half of the season with a torn ACL. She had her moments as a 3-point shooter.
Paige Eaton was “awesome’’ until suffering a stress fracture. Her injury is a tricky one, Morris said. It could heal with rest, but it could put her out for the season.
Fairview’s Kori Fast was “doing a great job’’ until an old shoulder injury flaired up.
Still, the Lady Jets are ahead of where they were last year when they had so many injuries Morris had to recruit within the student body to have enough to scrimmage.
“We recruited an army so we wouldn’t be in that situation again,’’ Morris said.
Some freshmen could make an immediate impact.
Hannah Holasek, a 5-foot-11 post from Lexington, “is going to be a big presence in the middle when she gets back (from injury),’’ Morris said.
“We knew she would be good, but she still has really surprised us,’’ Morris said. “She could be one of the best to ever play here before it’s all said and done.’’
Breck Clark, a 5-foot-10 forward from Dale, has stepped up and “has really played strong,’’ Morris said.
Twin sisters Shelbie and Haylie Kirby of Collinsville have done a good job at guard.
Kori Barrios, a two-sport all-stater (basketball and softball) at Hammon, has “been a really good shooting guard,’’ Morris said.
Kiara Moore, a 5-foot-7 guard from Little Rock, Ark., has played well at point guard.
Maggie Simpson, a 6-foot-2 inside player from Lewisville, Texas, “is getting better every day,’’ and has been another pleasant surprise.
Morris said the league is tough as usual. He said seven to eight teams literally have a legitimate shot for the league championship.
“We start every season with that (league championship) as our goal,’’ Morris said. “We have accomplished that eight of the last 11 seasons. Part of the reason we have been successful is that we don’t assume that’s going to happen.’’
Zack Wilson, who helped Drummond’s boys reach the area tournament last season, will be a student assistant coach.
Morris is trying to finalize a deal to bring back ex-Lady Jet Rose Anderson, a member of Great Britian’s 2012 Olympic team, as an assistant. He is working to complete paperwork and visa problems to bring her in from Scotland.
NOC Enid’s home opener is Nov. 4 against Southwestern Kansas JV.