With just four upperclassmen—and one of those four out to start the season—Woodland High head girls basketball coach Kyle Morgan is expecting some growing pains at the start of the season.
“Honestly, right now, we’re extremely young,” Morgan said. “We’re going to learn a lot as the season progresses. I’m optimistic, if we can get healthy and stay healthy, after Christmas I would think we can be the most improved team I’ve coached, just based on where we are now. If we can do small things better and learn from each game experience, I’m hopeful by Christmas we can be a pretty competitive side with big upside heading towards the region tournament.”
The Lady Wildcats went 5-21 last year, and currently return just two starters, sophomore Madgie Robinson and senior Jamison Kilgo, from that team.
A third former starter, senior Lexie Robinson, had knee surgery in the offseason and is expected to return in late December at the earliest, which might contribute to that Christmas upside that Morgan mentioned.
With her out, though, Kilgo and Madgie Robinson will be expected to play big roles. Kilgo, who’s played four years in the program, should provide a steady hand, while Robinson, after starting as a freshman, looks to build on that.
“Right now, we’re trying to get [Madgie Robinson] off the ball because she’s currently the best shooter in our gym,” Morgan said. “She’s probably also, at this point, our best ballhandler as well. She’s going to be required to do a little bit of both.”
Robinson’s fellow sophomore Jordan Duck will also handle some of the ballhandling duties.
Morgan will also welcome two seniors who didn’t play last year. Excel transfer McKenzie Hobbs was ineligible last year, but Morgan expects the “well-rounded” player to start for the Lady Wildcats this year.
Senior Danielle Downes, who missed last year with an injury, should also get some minutes.
Behind the two likely sophomore starters in Madgie Robinson and Duck, Woodland has a good group of four freshmen this year.
State cross country champ Carli Clymer will play, as will basketball novice Nickiah Metcalf and young post players Lauren Morris and Leah Stantz.
“All four of those are going to be valuable additions,” Morgan said. “How quickly they can come along, I’m not entirely sure, but we’ll learn as we go and hopefully they’ll get better with each practice and each opportunity on the floor in a game situation.”
It looked like the Lady Wildcats may have caught a break with their region downsizing from 14 to nine teams this year, but they’ll still likely face some very tough competition, and the smaller region may not be any easier.
“I believe preseason Villa Rica is sixth [in the state] and Carrollton is ninth,” Morgan said. “Rome, they’re always pretty good and athletic, and then Cass has the best team they’ve had in quite a few years. In my opinion, those will probably be the top four going in, but the Paulding schools are always good and we’re gong to have a tough time each and every night when we play region opponents.”
If his young team can make it through the early season and keep improving, though, Morgan thinks they have a shot to make some noise late in the season, especially with Lexie Robinson back.
“The kids are working hard,” Morgan said. “We’ve been focusing a lot on fundamentals—dribbling, passing, catching, shooting, everything—all those little things that are going to make a difference for our kids individually and collectively as a team, as we hope to improve as the season progresses.”