By Bryan Davis
At this moment, the Oak Hill Academy Lady Raiders basketball season is already underway. The start of what should be an exciting season got started on Monday afternoon, as the girls traveled to Indianola Academy for a pre-season tournament.
Today, the Lady Raiders will take on Strider Academy, and they will finish up the tourney on Saturday, against North Delta.
This week’s action is the prelude to what should be an exciting season for the Lady Raiders, who will be traveling to Lamar next Tuesday.
“They’re excited about playing today,” Oak Hill head coach Stan Hughey said on Monday. “It’s time to get started for sure.”
The Lady Raiders sport about 14 players, some veteran, returning starters, while others are coming up through the ranks. Hughey says that he thinks all 14 should contribute at some point in 2010-2011.
“We’ve got a real good group of young kids coming up that have brought us a lot of athleticism,” said Hughey. “We’ve got Tori Ellis coming back, who should be one of the best players, if not the best player in our district. She was all-conference last year as a sophomore.”
Paige Dawkins, who had ACL surgery last year, will be back for her senior season.
“She’s a much-improved senior,” Hughey said. “She’s coming off a broken wrist so we’ve had her back for a week.”
The other upper class man for Oak Hill is Kayla Hall. Under those players’ leadership will be a variety of juniors, sophomores and freshmen.
“We’ve got a big group of juniors,” Hughey said. “All of those kids will be able to help us this year. We’re excited about getting started.”
Having the numbers and the talent leaves Oak Hill with much confidence in its depth going into the season.
“We’ve got a lot of depth,” Hughey said. “Hopefully we can play a style where we’re able to use our depth. We’re going to try to play fast, get up and down the floor and pressure the ball. Hopefully, our depth will start showing in the second half. We do have a lot of girls who can play.”
Hughey said that if his team can control the pace of the game, he should be able to interchange his players effectively throughout the game.
“A lot of them do different things,” Hughey said. “Some will play more one night and less the next night, depending on what kind of team we’re playing against and what kind of style we’re trying to play.”
After a long summer of hard work, the Lady Raiders come in improved on defense and offense.
“We’ll be better defensively than we’ve been,” Hughey said. “I think we’ve got a better shooting team, outside. How well we rebound and how well we score in the post is going to be a big key of how far we can go.”
Oak Hill will be competing in a district with Manchester, Winston and Carroll, all very competitive teams.
“Manchester is going to be much-improved,” Hughey said. “Carroll has a lot of girls coming back. Winston had a really nice junior high team, with a lot of girls coming back. I think everybody’s going to be a little better than they were last year. Hopefully we’ll be better.”
This Thursday, Oak Hill will get a chance to look at Lamar for the first time in Starkville. That is the team they will face next week, on the road in Meridian.
The Lady Raiders will play Kirk for the first home game next Thursday on November 11. The early-season schedule will be full of tough teams that will only make Oak Hill better as the Lady Raiders go for their goal of winning it all this year.
“The goal for this year is to win the district, get to the championship game of the North, and if we can do that, get to the state tournament,” Hughey said. “Our ultimate goal is to win the state championship.”