Basketball is just around the corner, and at Paris High School, that means that practices are now in full swing for the young Lady Eagles girls basketball team. Paris will open the 2019-20 season with a home game next week, November 14, versus Dardanelle. The very next day, Friday, November 15, the Lady Tigers will host County Line. The first games for both dates is 6 p.m.
I recently sat down with Paris girls basketball coach Dustin Williams, and we discussed the Lady Eagles team this year and their upcoming season. “Our senior high team, we are going to be young but we are going to be athletic. We lost about 80% of our scoring from last year. We’ve got some young talent coming in, and our sophomores are the first team in 30 years to win the junior high girls tournament championship last year, so that was big. Three girls who are back; Jadyn Hart started every game last year as a sophomore, she’s a returning junior, point guard, real good player, good athlete. Harlie Watts is a junior and started almost half of the games last year, and we expect her to come in and make a statement. I’ve seen more growth out of her than I have anyone. Harley is one of those that can shoot the ball real well. She has grown and matured as a player. We’re expecting a big year out of her. Kenleigh Robertson is the other returning starter, started about half of the games for us. Her and Harlie kind of rotated out. She has a real good three-point shot, will be one of two seniors, and her leadership on and off the court is kind of what keeps us going. Has a very good attitude, high-energy kid. We have two newcomers from volleyball. One is a senior, Paiton Forbis, she hasn’t played since her freshman year, but the last three years I have had a girl come out at the end of volleyball for their senior year. Paiton, so far in practice, looks like she has not missed too many beats; she can handle the ball well, she’s a shooter, and she’s another one of those leadership girls that you just have to have in practice, in the locker room. She’s high-energy, high basketball IQ, just a real smart kid. And then, Alyssa Komp, is a sophomore coming out from volleyball. Right now, she’s a little banged up from volleyball season, and we’re resting her, but we expect her to be ready next week when we play Dardanelle.”
What Paris may lack in senior high game experience, the Lady Eagles make up in athleticism. Coach Williams refers to his team as athlete, after athlete, after athlete. “All of our girls are real athletic, determined, and confident players. On the back end we are young. We expect big minutes from Akira Robinson, she’ll be a sophomore, had some junior high minutes, and she’s growing. When her confidence gets there she’ll be ready. She’s six foot, Alyssa Komp is six foot, and Jacee Hart is six foot. Karsyn Tencleve is a good left-handed sophomore and we expect big minutes out of her. We have stressed that we should be 8, 9, 10 deep this year. Some nights we will play 7, some nights 8, 9, just whatever we need to play. This team is young, and there are 8 or 9 girls that could start.”
The young Lady Eagles will play in a loaded conference this year that is also a veteran conference. “With our youth we are going to be up and down this year. We’re going to take some bumps along the way, but we’re going to be a lot better at the end of the year than we are right now. We are going to make a lot of mistakes early, that is just the transition (from volleyball to basketball). There is going to be several sophomores and juniors on the court at anytime. We’re trying to keep it simple. We expect a whole bunch of minutes from sophomore Jacee Hart, one of the best shots on the team, can shoot it from anywhere.” Coach Williams mentioned Lamar, Fountain Lake, and Jessieville as teams that will be competing for playoff births. The Lady Eagles, even with their youth and inexperience, cannot be counted out. Paris should improve as the season progresses. The goal is to be playing the best basketball of the season at postseason tournament time.
Coach Williams really likes this team for their attitude and work ethic in practice. “This is the highest energy bunch, the best attitude bunch I have been around. I have these girls since they have been in junior high and they have learned to adapt to me, so, it’s a good bunch.”
When I asked Coach Williams about the upcoming conference, he thought the Lady Eagles may be overlooked by the rest of the conference due to their graduation of scoring and experience from last year’s team. “I think when the rest of our conference sees 80% of our scoring gone from last year and a young team returning, they will rank us near the bottom of the conference. Lamar and Two Rivers who do not play volleyball, its basketball 360 over there. For us, after volleyball season, our game reps become very important.”
After talking to Coach Williams, I would not count out the Paris Lady Eagles just because they are young this year. The team will play a tough early season portion of their schedule, and as the young team gets minutes on the floor and the right rotations and chemistry are found going into conference play, the Lady Eagles will show up and be a tough out for any opponent.
One thing is for sure. Albeit young, there is a lot of talent on this team, combined with great attitudes, work ethic, and senior leadership. I look for the Lady Eagles to perhaps struggle a little early, but I see this team picking up momentum and being a force in the conference after the first of the calendar year.
The future for Paris girls basketball is bright. The varsity team is young and talented, and the junior high squad is equally as talented. In a future article, I will highlight the junior high team. Both teams will combine in the next 2-3 years to form a future varsity team that could be a threat to go deep into the state playoffs. Combined with a new conference in 2020-21 that will send the Lady Eagles southwest to play more local schools, with the exception of Cossatot River High School (Cove, AR), the Lady Eagles conference travel schedule will improve at the same time the team becomes more experienced. But for now, it is about a young, talented team that simply needs game experience and playing time together on the varsity level.
Paris fans, go out this season and support this young Lady Eagles team. Their hustle and growth this year will be exciting to watch!