COVINGTON — The departure of seven seniors left the Newton girls basketball team without any players with real varsity experience. But instead of panicking, Lady Rams head coach Tiffani Johnson is going to use this as an opportunity.
“Not many of the girls have a lot of game experience because my seven seniors carried the load for the last couple of years,” the Newton coach said. “This is a young group and is a good introduction into high school basketball.”
The Lady Rams played a total 25 games over their summer workout session taking part in a summer league at McEachern as well as a trip to the University of Kentucky’s basketball camp. The trip to Lexington was one that took the girls out of their comfort zone forcing them to do something that has not been done in a quite a while — communicate.
The first thing Johnson did was take away their phones.
“I took their phones so they had to communicate with each other and the coaches. It worked because there wasn’t anyone else to talk to,” Johnson said. “Our team chemistry is better than it has been. Everybody gets along from seniors to freshman. It’s just one team, there’s no separation. We definitely have good communication on the team in setting screens and running the offense it forces you to communicate and talk on the floor and make adjustments.”
The University of Kentucky trip also gave Johnson options for next year. Instead of playing the same run-and-gun system they have in the past, Johnson is considering slowing down the pace and setting up plays.
“At some point in time we’re going to have to sit down and run some plays even if it’s just to kill some clock or to get the person open you want to get the ball,” Johnson said. “With the group I have back I’ll definitely be making some adjustments to what our style has been in the past. But I definitely saw some things I liked and that I will be implementing.”
One of the reasons for the change is the inexperience of the team. None of the returners had a lot of varsity playing experience. As a result, there were a lot of mistakes and indecisiveness with the ball. Johnson hopes that the more the girls get on the floor will help take away the nervousness and jitters and help them make better decisions with the ball.
Because none of the players have a lot of experience, all the players from freshman to seniors have a good chance of being a starter or getting a lot of quality playing time. A few players that really stood out were rising senior Lydia Brown and rising sophomore Imani Broadnax.
“But the freshman I think worked the hardest were Journey Smith and Ariena Card,” Johnson said. “The starting position and playing time is wide open. It’s just about who wants it more and who’s going to work to get it. The majority of my younger girls are playing AAU. July is kind of a dead month so other than bringing girls in to work on individual skills we’re just waiting until school starts. We got a lot of good work in but we still have a long way to go.”