Not really sure what to expect, even though I am extremely proud with what we have accomplished in the past few months. I particularly appreciate the help of Jim Smart, a longtime friend who has coached the team with me.
Our opening tournament, as I said, is this weekend in the Triad area of North Carolina, specifically the cities of Thomasville and High Point. We have three games in one day, which might come as a shock to some of our players! I hope they're ready for all the running.
I figured I would give everyone a rundown of our roster, with info on each of the players.
Allyiah Swiney, No. 1 - The daughter of Hamlet (N.C.) Middle School girls' basketball coach Lem Swiney, Allyiah is the youngest player on our roster at only 7 years old. Yep, you read that correctly, 7 years old. Don't let her age fool you, she's one of the top ballhandlers we have and one of our most aggressive defensive players. She will spend the majority of her playing time at point guard, or as she knows it, the "1" position.
Erin Smart, No. 2 - This is Jim's daughter and one our three captains. Erin is perhaps our best outside shooter, so we will rely on her to open up the defense a little bit so we can get the ball inside. She also can handle the rock and plays steady defense. Erin is another "1" for us.
Emily Faw, No. 3 - I affectionately call her "Two Glove," which is a nickname that came about from rec league softball. It helps differentiate between her and my daughter, Emily, another member of the team whom you will meet later. Two Glove is a go-getter who has taken a real shine to our team as one of more vocal players. She gets after it on D and sometimes is a little too unselfish on offense, but we're working on that. She plays our "3" position, small forward or wing.
Shelby Matheson, No. 4 - Shelby is one of our older players, a 6th-grader who has improved so much since I first had the pleasure of coaching her in rec league. Her ability and willingness to help has her playing a couple of spots: center ("5") and power forward ("4"). Her only complaint thus far is having to inbound the ball for us! Seriously, her comfort level grows each practice, and I feel as if she will excel once we get into the heart of our schedule.
Saleemah Brown, No. 10 - Although our tallest player, Saleemah doesn't fit the mold of what most would expect from that description. She's quick on her feet and one of our fastest players, and her ballhandling is a marvel, as well. Even though she can get off shots virtually at will, she always looks for her teammates and is one of our most coachable players. She understands what is expected and gives her best effort to get that. Although everyone is looking forward to our first tournament, Saleemah probably has asked me more about it than anyone else. She is going to play "5" for us.
Allexis Swiney, No. 11 - Another one of Coach Swiney's daughters, Allexis is a great athlete who has done very well at each sport in which I have coached her. I first had her in soccer, then added softball this past spring, and she was one of the first players I thought of when we started this team. Her and Allyiah's parents are big supporters of our team, too, and that helps. Allexis is going to be one of our go-to players who can play inside or out, with a deft shooting touch combined with a knowledge of the inside game. She is a "3" and a "4."
Lauren Humann, No. 12 - This is another of our younger players who has made great strides in her time with the team. I was fortunate enough to have Lauren on the rec league team I coached last year and saw enough then to know she could be a big help for the System. All of her skills have improved, and I have been most impressed with her defense. She has a nose for the ball, which will pay huge dividends when we get into our normal routine of pressing and running. She is a "2," or shooting guard.
Kylie Jo Howell, No. 13 - KJ, as we all call her, has been a great friend to our family (along with her parents and sister) almost since I moved back to Richmond County nearly six years ago. Her improvement in every sport, not just basketball, has been a treasure to see. Her enthusiasm is contagious and will help tremendously when we go through multiple games in a single day in tournaments. As a "4," KJ understands the importance of screening to free up her teammates, a skill I hope she can pass on to others.
Emily Parsons, No. 14 - I probably should let someone else post this, since I'm surely biased toward my own daughter. Oh, well, here it goes: Emily has impressed me from Day 1 with this team, starting with her excitement about it when we first talked about it to her passing and shooting ability in our scrimmages. She also is forced more than anyone else to feel any frustration I have when things don't go as anticipated at practice, so she probably deserves more thanks for that! She's a great player, but more importantly, a wonderful daughter. She will play mostly "2," with some "1" and maybe "3" thrown in.
Lindsay Skipper, No. 15 - Lindsay is in third grade, so another one of our youngsters, even though she hasn't missed a step really in practice. All of our players have made improvements, and Lindsay certainly done more than her share since she joined the team. I love her defense and her willingness to get in there to do whatever is needed. Once she matures a bit more physically, she will be hard for most to handle. She is a "2."
Jessica Matheson, No. 20 - This is Shelby's younger sister, so you know I thank their parents for getting these girls involved. I first had Jessica in soccer and saw her great athleticism, then had the good fortune of having her on our rec league hoops team last year. She always impressed me with her effort in games, and her shot has improved very much since we began this experiment. Jessie, as she is known by our team, really gets after it on the boards, too, which is something we're going to need. She will play "4."
Kennedy Jarrell, No. 21 - It has been great getting to know Kennedy and her family a bit better over the past couple of months. She has made great strides on the court and always has a friendly smile for everyone. On defense, Kennedy certainly isn't afraid of much, and she understands who needs to be stopped, even if that player is much taller than her. This is another player who will continue to blossom as she matures, and her enthusiasm now will be a big help for our team. Kennedy plays "2."
N'aiyah Dixon, No. 22 - N'aiyah came to the team a bit late, and we are very glad she did. She always asks to do more at practice and has been very versatile, bouncing between positions and "teams" as we get everyone some run. Her shooting and ballhandling has really improved, as well as her rebounding. She's another one who has a great smile that fills the gym, and her positive attitude is going to be a big plus for us as we go forward. She plays mostly "4," but will be called on at "5" occasionally.
Well, there you have it, the 13 members of the Sandhills System. And if you're wondering about the "mascot," you need to venture over to another blog titled "KP's World," where I follow a long list of hoops teams running a wonderful style of play called "The System."
Thanks for checking in, and come back in a few days for an update on our first tournament. Don't worry, I won't be one of those coaches who doesn't provide details even if the results on the court don't go our way. We're going to be winners regardless of what the scoreboard says, and I can't wait to see it.