Coming off a 29-2 record and its third consecutive state semifinal appearance, the girls basketball team anticipates more of the same this season: region dominance followed by a deep playoff run.
A mix of talent and experience in the backcourt and the post has coach Otis Smart and his players optimistic about achieving both those aspirations.
“Every year we come back, we have a good team,” guard DeKoya Mack said. “We want to go back there again.”
With lofty goals, the main difference for the program this season is the change in the surroundings.
Starting with its first home game Dec. 2, Laney plays in the new Norman Bonner Athletic Complex, with Smart’s name on the court. Bonner, Laney’s former boys basketball coach from 1966-2005, won more than 500 games in his career. Smart said he learned everything he knows about the game from Bonner, adding took him “under his wings.”
As for this season’s girls team under longtime coach Smart, Mack, Jermeka Gibson and Katice Williams will share ball-handling duties.
Though standout guard Mykala Jones is gone, Mack believes the talent is just as strong.
The overall ability includes the power and height inside, where Chelsea Maultsby, Simone Smith and Khadijah Cave are among those expected to contribute.
All are listed at 6-foot or taller and should get good looks near the hoop.
The post players, with their height, should also help the Lady Wildcats overwhelm foes with the team’s relentless press.
“We’ll catch it every time,” Maultsby said about desperate throws against the press.
Going 80-10 the past three seasons with three state semifinal showings, younger players arrive at the program knowing the task is to extend the run of success.
This season, if Laney makes a push for the state championship, Smart said it would mean the team would have fulfilled talent-and experience-based expectations.
“We got to be dedicated and listen to the coaches,” Smart said.
“It’s keeping the tradition going. We have the talent. What are we going to do with it?”