Having the athleticism to gain the advantage over your opponents is one thing. Understanding how what to do in situations when things get tough is another.
Lincoln Trail College's women's basketball team appears to have the former, but is continuing to work on the latter.
The Lady Statesmen feature a very athletic and deep roster, but need to increase their basketball IQ, which head coach Scott Sparks hopes will come the more they get comfortable with the game at the junior college level.
"From the jump, this is the most athletic team 1-13 that I've had since I've been here," Sparks said. "They have talent and work hard, but our biggest problem is that we need to be more cerebral. We have been relying too much on our athleticism in the preseason."
Some of that can be attributed to a young roster that features 10 freshmen and a sophomore that didn't play last year among the 13 players on the roster.
"We are still learning," Sparks said. "We have a lot of knowledge we need to implement. In high school, a lot of times you can just out-athlete people, but at this level, we have to be able to think the game and understand what's going on as far as time, score, etc. They are a talented team, they are just not good thinkers yet."
Something that should help the growth of the team is that they are a close-knit group and are hard workers.
"This is a great group of kids," Sparks said. "They all get along really well and they all have the same goal, which is to move on to four-year schools. They want to do well on the court and in the classroom and that has helped them bond."
Leading the way for this year's squad are sophomores Jaylynn Brown (5-8, Jeffersonville, Ind.) and Alexis True (5-3, Frankfort, Ky.), along with classmate Nieisha Petit-Frere (5-4, Louisville, Ky.), who sat out last season for disciplinary reasons.
"Jaylynn and Alexis are our only returners and they will be leaders for us," Sparks said. " Nieisha has earned her way back on the team and she is a little ahead of the freshmen since she was around us all last season."
Outside of those three, the rest of the roster consists of freshmen, including guards Alaysia Douglas (5-7, New Albany, Ind.), Kelsey Mitchell (5-7, Tipton, Ind.), Madison Beck (5-10, Evansville, Ind.), Amber Hixon (5-7, North Lauderdale, Fla.) and Hannah Boykin (5-6, Forest Park), forwards Paiton Mangrum (5-10, Chicago), SyAnn Holmes (6-0, Evanston), Jazmyn Ingersoll (6-1, Madison, Wisc.) and Tori Combs (5-10, Cloverdale, Ind.) and center Kira Robinson (6-3, Winchester, Ind.).
"Alaysia and Hannah are similar in they are super athletic, long and can score in different ways," Sparks said. "Kelsey is a lot like Alexis in she can shoot the lights out and is very sound fundamentally. Madison is gradually coming along, but is still trying to get acclimated to the speed of the game. She can really shoot it, has a quick release and a nice touch. She also has a high basketball IQ. We are still trying to figure out where she fits in best. Amber has exceeded our expectations. We though she'd be a future replacement for Jaylynn in the backcourt, but she has turned into a kid that we can count on defensively and she is also a good shooter. She does a lot of the extra things as well. She has a bit of a back injury, but when healthy, she could see a lot of minutes. Paiton is a freak of nature. She is only 5-10, but she can jump up and grab the rim. She lives in the weight room and does a little of everything. She will be an asset on both ends of the floor. SyAnn is a bit of a mid-post player. She is super athletic, rebounds well and can get up and down the floor, She can also shoot it and has a nice touch. Jazmyn has the unique ability to rebound the ball. She is not afraid to stick her nose in there and we are hoping to count on her late in games to secure a rebound or force a turnover for us if we need it. Tori is another freak of nature. We brought her in to play basketball, but she also expressed an interest in playing volleyball and she turned into their best player. She is super athletic, super strong and has a great sense around the bucket. She has a good shot, can rebound, guard anyone on the floor and has a high basketball IQ. We are excited about her potential once we get her in basketball shape. Kira may be a year or two from being that high-level kid, but she is showing promise. She's already had Illinois, IUPUI and University of Indianapolis in to look at her."
Although not a player, Sparks wanted to mention another member of the team that has played a huge role behind the scenes - manager Alecia Tucker.
"She is a great kid that does all the dirty work and all the little things for us that allows (assistant) coach (Adam) Rotar and I to focus more on coaching," Sparks said. "She even created 'Motivational Mondays,' where she puts motivational notes on all the players' lockers."
With a lot of the roster being so new, Sparks is not quite sure how it will all fit together yet, but he believes the pieces are there to put an exciting product on the court.
"We are very deep, maybe more than we've ever been," Sparks said. "We have played five scrimmages and it has been nice to look down the bench and see we have plenty of options. We've got a lot of girls that want to go up and down and we should be able to press a lot more. We may not press all the time, but we should have the ability to apply full-court pressure throughout games if we want to. We also have different scenarios where we can play certain kids in and keep girls fresh. We also have the ability to play through foul trouble or injury, as we should be able to just reload when someone goes out. We have the personnel that should be able to just grind teams down because we don't lose much when we sub."
Sparks believes this group has a chance to be successful, but it is going to come down to discipline and being able to play fundamental basketball.
"Taking care of the ball and valuing possessions will be huge for us," Sparks said. "We need to make sure we value the ball, know time and score and what to do in specific situations. Good teams aren't going to turn the ball over, they are not going to gamble on defense and they are not going to foul you. I believe we can be one of those teams."
Should the Lady Statesmen become one of those teams, Sparks believes they can reach the next level as far as where they end up in the conference and region standings.
"We haven't had a 20-win season since 2010, but we were so close last year," Sparks said. "We had 17 wins and we lost our first game by one, at Southeastern by four in a game we led with two minutes to go and at SWIC when we were up 12 at the half. If we win those three, we are at 20 games and probably finish second in the conference, which would have been an outstanding year. I believe we've closed the gap and have the pieces to get to 20 this year, but the other teams in the conference have gotten better, too. Things look promising and we are on the cusp. If we come together like I believe we can, it's going to be a fun year."
2019-20 Lincoln Trail College Lady Statesmen Basketball Roster
No. Name Yr. Ht. Pos. Hometown
1 Paiton Mangrum Fr. 5-10 F Chicago, Ill.
3 Alaysia Douglas Fr. 5-7 G New Albany, Ind.
4 SyAnn Holmes Fr. 6-0 F Evanston, Ill.
5 Jazmyn Ingersoll Fr. 6-1 F Madison, Wisc.
10 Alexis True So. 5-3 G Frankfort, Ky.
11 Kelsey Mitchell Fr. 5-7 G Tipton, Ind.
12 Nieisha Petit-Frere So. 5-4 G Louisville, Ky.
14 Jaylynn Brown So. 5-8 G Jeffersonville, Ind.
22 Madison Beck Fr. 5-10 G Evansville, Ind.
31 Amber Hixon Fr. 5-7 G North Lauderdale, Fla.
32 Hannah Boykin Fr. 5-6 G Forest Park, Ill.
34 Tori Combs Fr. 5-10 F Cloverdale, Ind.
44 Kira Robinson Fr. 6-3 C Winchester, Ind.
Head coach: Scott Sparks
Assistant coach: Adam Rotar
2019-20 Lincoln Trail College Lady Statesmen Basketball Schedule