The North Surry girls basketball team is excited about the potential of a terrific season in 2015-2016. After a slow start last year, the Lady Hounds finished 15-10 with a 9-1 record in the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference, and tied with Surry Central at the top of the standings.
Only two significant contributors from that team are gone, and the freshmen and sophomores who played meaningful minutes return to the fold. Combine that experience with some new arrivals from a junior varsity team that went 18-1, and the sky is the limit this year for North Surry.
Still, a slow start might once again be in the cards for the Lady Hounds . Head Coach Shane Slate isn’t shy of playing the best competition around, and he has once again drawn up a very difficult non-conference schedule loaded with 3A and 4A opposition.
“I think they’re a little disappointed if we don’t win early on,” Slate said. “But I think, especially for the kids that have been through it, they see the difference in how much playing those really good teams will slow things down as you get further along in the season.”
The two returnees with the most playing experience are juniors Jessy Nichols and Maggie Hawks. This will be their third year on the varsity team, and the guards combined for 11 points and four assists per game last season.
Slate said Nichols and Hawks also do a lot of similar things on the basketball court, while also complementing each other in the backcourt. They both have great vision and handle the ball well with a solid jumpshot.
“We talk about whoever has the ball, we’re ready to run the show,” Slate said. “They both can bring the ball up and push, unless we want to run something specific.”
Hawks is slightly stronger and has the ability to shift into the small forward position. She’s also a tenacious defender who averaged 3.4 steals per game last season.
Sophomore Taylor Duncan will be the third primary guard for North Surry this year, and she is entering her second season with the varsity Hounds. Slate said Duncan is a terrific on-ball defender, who can also play either the point or shooting guard positions.
In the frontcourt, sophomore Mikaela Johnson is the leading returning scorer. She averaged 8.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last season, and has a diverse offensive arsenal out of the low block to go along with a defensive presence across the court.
“She does so many things well,” Slate said. “Defensively, she can defend three positions… Offensively, she can post up with her back to the basket or face up from the high post. She can explode to the basket. We’re hoping she can have a big year with some more comfort at the varsity level.”
Slate’s deep team provides him with plenty of options when trying to find someone to complement Johnson in the front court. Senior Abby Andrews could see an ample amount of playing time, but she will have to compete with JV arrivals Paige Sizemore and Miya West.
Both Sizemore and West are strong athletes who can give Slate minutes from either the guard or forward positions.
Other newcomers from that successful JV team are Tiana Shelf and Arin Bunker. Shelf will be a depth guard this year, while Bunker can play three positions for North Surry. It’s safe to say that the Lady Hounds have a ton of options with a multitude of skilled and diverse players.
This influx of skill has forced Slate to somewhat change his offensive philosophy for the upcoming season. The head coach wouldn’t go into too many specifics, but he mentioned that the Lady Hounds will attack out of the half-court set this year.
Slate even joked that he told fellow coaches to “throw out the old film.”
Fans can see this new-style mix with an old man-to-man defense in person on Dec. 1 against the East Surry Cardinals.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16