There will be a lot of new faces taking the floor tonight when the Bryant Lady Hornets basketball team hosts the White Hall Lady Bulldogs at Hornet Arena in a preseason benefit scrimmage.
Eight girls who had played plenty of minutes over the last three seasons have graduated. The lone returning starter is junior Parris Atkins, who was among the leading scorers for Bryant as a sophomore.
“We got a lot of young kids, a lot of inexperience,” acknowledged Lady Hornets head coach Brad Matthews. “We have Parris back, who played a significant amount, started most of the year and, boy, she’s taken a big step up for us. After the Covid stuff finally cleared and we got to get back together in June, she’s done really well. Her practice habits are way different. She’s taking a little bit of a leadership role for us. She’s obviously very talented kid with a lot of upside. So, we’re excited about what she has.
“We have three seniors Kaitlyn and Kristyn Wang and Lauryn Taylor,” he noted. “Just quality kids who’ve kind of waited their turn. We think they’ll play and contribute.
“Jordan Hancock is had a really good last month, month and a half,” the coach said of the junior guard. “Shamya Jordan is another junior.
“So, we have three seniors, three juniors and then the rest is sophomores,” he continued. “They had a really good freshman season so we’re looking for them not only to contribute right away but really take the next step to really be able to compete against high level competition that we’ll see here pretty quick.”
The sophomores include Lauren Lain, Kiniyah Horton, Jayla Knight, Natalie Edmonson, Mia Winston, Emileigh Muse, Lyniyae Johnson, Brooklyn Welch and Jaelyn Allen.
The Lady Hornets also have a promising freshman on the team, Brilynn Findley.
“We think we’ve got a handful of kids that can shoot it well for us,” Matthews said. “Paris is really expanded her game where she’s becoming a little bit of a threat from the 3-point line. Natalie Edmonson can shoot it. Emileigh Muse can shoot it. Jordan Hancock can shoot it a little bit. Kaitlyn and Kristyn can shoot it a little and Brilynn Findley can shoot it a little bit. Jaelyn Allen, another post kid, can step out and shoot it a little bit.
“Obviously, we have the best defensive coach in the state in Joanna Scott,” he said of his returning assistant.
The Lady Hornets will officially open the 2020-21 season on Thursday, Nov. 19, at Searcy.
“When you’re young and, until you do it, what you can do and what you do are two different things,” Matthews related. “I think the mindset is something that they have to adjust to. There is a competitiveness that happens at the high school level that, while they play hard at the ninth-grade level, there’s just a difference. You know, they’re playing against kids that are two and sometimes three years older than them. There’s a physicality there but there’s also a mentality there. I think we definitely have the ability to do it but how quickly can we come together and put the pieces together.
“We think we have really good pieces,” he emphasized. “They’re just young or in Kaitlyn, Kristyn and Lauryn’s case inexperienced. So, it’s a matter of how quickly can we make the puzzle fit.”