The Sherman Lady Cats face a number of issues heading into the 2017-18 basketball season that are causing second-year coach David Upton to change his approach.
With only three returning players from last season’s 12-19 team, which finished fifth in District 5-5A at 3-9, and no player taller than 5-foot-10, experience and height will be two key factors working against the Lady Cats.
Senior Alaura Andrews and juniors Libby Ticknor and Kursten Alexander represent the total of Sherman’s returning experience. Both Ticknor and Alexander are joining the team after competing in cross country with Ticknor qualifying for the Region I-5A meet for the second year in a row.
“Alaura is kind of a utility girl,” Upton said. “If we were playing baseball, you would classify her as a utility player. She’ll do it all for us. Alaura can play any position on the floor that we need her to play, but her role will probably be a 3 forward. Libby and Kursten are probably our two wing players.
“They’re the ones that we’re going to have to require to give us leadership. They’re the only ones with any varsity experience. Everybody else is going to be kind of young with no varsity experience whatsoever.”
In addition to youth, lack of height is also part of the equation.
“We’re going to be small,” Upton said. “Alaura’s going to be our biggest kid at about 5-10. But where we give up some size, we are pretty quick all the way around. And I’m talking Girl 1 through Girl 10 or 12 depending on how many we carry.”
That means the Lady Cats will rely on its defense to create offensive opportunities.
“We’re going to play our halfcourt man,” Upton said. “I think with our speed and quickness, we’re going to try to do that as long as we don’t run across some team that’s got some huge 6-3, 6-4 kids and just pounds the ball inside.
“We’re going to try to put pressure on the defensively and we’re going to try to play fast. We’re going to try to make teams keep up with us. I’m not sure everybody out there’s going to be as quick as us. One of the things we talk about in practice is we want to be quick, but we don’t want to hurry. Don’t rush things, but be quick about it.”
Upton added that the team’s speed and quickness put Sherman in position to force the pace against teams that play more of a halfcourt game.
“That’s what we’re doing this year,” he said. “I’m not used to playing this way. I’m used to being a little more traditional because I had bodies to be traditional. This year, we’re going to come out of the box a little bit. We’re not going to be so traditional.”
That also puts more of the load on Sherman’s perimeter shooting if the Lady Cats can’t produce layups in transition.
“I’m doing things in practice I’ve never done before,” Upton said. “Because of our size and because of our speed, we are focusing on the offensive end more than I ever have before. We are shooting like crazy every day. We’re probably not going more than 10 or 15 minutes in practice where we don’t stop and do something shooting-wise.”
Upton said the early portion of the season will be spent getting the younger players used to playing at the varsity level.
“I’m just trying to build a culture first,” he said. “The girls are doing a really good job of building their culture. They’re buying in to what we’re doing. They’re buying in to holding each other accountable.
“I told the girls I’m not going to sit there in practice and talk about wins and losses. I’m not going to put pressure on them to win this coming game or win this amount of games. Wins will take care of themselves as long as we do what we need to do.
“So far, it’s been going pretty good. They believe in that and they believe in each other. That locker room is probably one of the closest locker rooms I’ve ever been around. That goes a long way when you play and you’re close.”