SPRINGFIELD — In his second season at the helm of the Effingham County girls basketball team, Patrick McClure can’t wait to build upon the growth it achieved in year one.
McClure is eager to see his style of play come to fruition but is taking things one day at a time as the inexperienced Lady Rebels learn the basics of the game.
“I changed my complete style based off the girls we have and we are going to continue to build on that,” McClure said. “I will say we are ahead at this point this year compared to last year. They are a little bit better fundamentally, not where we want to be but we are getting better.”
McClure is pleased with the height of this year’s team, led by Jasmine Kennedy. The coach expects the 6-foot senior to be a force in the paint, be a strong defender and grab boards.
“We hope to score a lot of points in the post because of Jasmine and the length we have,” McClure said. “We are hoping to cause some turnovers and get some easy layups. You have certain people that you want to play to their strengths.”
This years Rebels’ team has some big shoes to fill as the squad graduated its top five scorers from a year ago, including Jordan Wallace, De’ja House and Catherine Hall.
“Catherine was great,” McClure said. “She hustled and she was quick and tough. We are going to miss her.
“I am excited about our new seniors because they’ve been under me for a year — Jasmine Kennedy, Cam Allen and Lakota Powell. They are all post players but they help us in senior leadership.”
McClure isn’t worried about having an inexperienced team. He believes it’s only a matter of time before the Lady Rebels fully grab hold of their potential.
“I am excited about last year’s freshman class,” he said. “They continue to get better. Jania Taylor started for me as a freshman and she is going to be really good. Mallory Johnson is going to get some playing time as a sophomore. Briana Hall is a freshman who is going to be a really good.
“We are going to be inexperienced, but this is the year to get experience and, hopefully, that will pay dividends in the future.”
McClure harped on the play of Taylor and believes the sophomore can be a special athlete. He thinks she has the skill and work ethic to be an effective player.
“Jania is going to be really good,” McClure said. “She’s improved tremendously over the summer. She works hard and has great leadership.
“And Jasmine is a girl that can do things that other girls can’t do.”
The Lady Rebels will have to rely on each other to find their rhythm. The team doesn’t boast one standout player and it will take a combined effort to get in the win column
McClure believes they will gel as one unit once they get enough playing time under their belt.
“I think I have three juniors playing in the rotation and the rest will be sophomores and some freshmen will get some playing time at the varsity level,” he said. “We don’t have one or two star players. Everyone is going to have to do their part and play their role.
“We need to girls to step up and find our identity. When we start playing games, I think we will find out really quick (what our identity is.”
Effingham County’s younger plays shouldn’t be discounted by their opponents. They have the ability to cover the length of the floor at a fast pace and McClure sees his squad being able to wear down opponents.
“I like the way we are working,” he said. “From the beginning of tryouts to now, they’ve learned a lot and they have stepped up. We have length and I like that. They are trying to do everything I ask as a coach.
“We still need to get better at our skills. We have to get better at shooting.
“I like our hustle. I want to them to play with a lot of grit. I think that is where we can outplay people.”