After struggling the past two seasons with a lack of depth and experience, Lee’s Summit West girls basketball coach Jeff Hardin is dealing with a different problem this season — and it’s a nice one to have.
“This by far my deepest team,” Hardin said after the Titans hosted a jamboree Wednesday night with Grain Valley, Blue Springs and Belton, “and that presents issues of its own. You can’t play that many and keep everybody happy and put them in an optimal position to play well, so it’s a competition every day at practice to see who’s going to get those minutes.”
The good-problem-to-have arises from a varsity roster that Hardin believes could go 11 deep without much of a drop-off and having a team that had been green the recent seasons morph into a veteran unit after losing only three seniors from last year.
The Titans showed off that depth by winning all three of their 12-minute scrimmages during the jamboree.
During all three games, Hardin subbed in players five at a time. Having that much experience and that many players, Hardin said, has helped the Titans get off to a quick start getting preparing for this season.
“They know what I’m going to say before I say it in practice,” he said. “They already know what the emphases are, what helps us win and what doesn’t. Usually I practice I can say, ‘What do we need to fix there?’ and they can already say it.”
West’s experience starts with the backcourt, where junior point guards Sydnee Kemp and Sydney Brooks are starting their third seasons on varsity.
Kemp, the Titans top returning scorer at around 8 points a game, said she’s already seeing this team starting to jell.
“A lot of us have been playing since eighth grade, so we’re kind of familiar with each other,” Kemp said. “Our chemistry and also the tough schedule that we have are definitely paying off.”
Last season, West relied on Kemp and Brooks to generate much of the offense with drives to the basket.
They’ll still be counted on for that this season, but the Titans also have some size inside. Ashton Campbell, a 5-foot-11 junior, gave the Titans a strong presence under the basket Wednesday night.
Junior Jillian Kirkpatrick (6-0) and freshman Abby Massengill (6-1) also are capable of playing at the post.
“Our posts the past two years have been 5-7,” Hardin said. “Now, we can throw out there four girls who are around or above six foot, which I’ve never had. We’re able to run traditional two-post stuff.”
Hardin expects better outside shooting as well from sophomore twins Charli and Marissa Ritchey and Kenzie Beeler, one of the Titans’ three seniors.
It’s yet another reason he believes this team will improve on last season’s 10-14 record.
“We can’t just roll the ball out,” Hardin said. “We need to make shots and we need to take advantage of opportunities. If we do, we can play with most people.”