Such is life for Luella ladies’ hoops these days. Still, the long-term expectations are laced with optimism.
“This is a rebuilding year,” said Lady Lions coach Michelle Smith. “We only have two or three returning players ... none who’d seen significant minutes.”
Smith takes over a program that reached the Class 6-A state playoffs last season.
As previously mentioned, that team is gone. The one she really inherited will be fashioned in her image.
“Coach [Eddie Pratt] had done a wonderful job in previous years,” said Smith. “I knew Luella is a great program … I just want to take it to the next level.”
The Lady Lions are 3-2 through their first five games, claiming a pair of decisive victories over Stockbridge and Druid Hills. Respectable showings in losses to Woodland (53-43) and Rockdale County (49-43) should give the Luella faithful cause for optimism as the season wears on.
A talented group of core players should only get better with real hardwood playing time.
The upside for 5 foot 9 freshman guard/forward Sade Jacobs is through the roof. Scrappy senior point guard Carrington Johnson is earning rave reviews from coaches for her work on both ends of the floor.
Fellow senior Shantay Baldwin should be solid in the post while junior forward Brianna Moore is a threat to score down low or by way of a consistent jumper.
Smith’s favored up-tempo style of offense should continue to pay dividends in the form of easy transition buckets. Defensively, expect Luella to play man-to-man “75 percent” of the time.
The outlook for this collection of Luella players is bright, insiders say, provided they gel and develop accordingly.
“It’s a work in progress,” Smith said. “We haven’t been together that long.”
“It’s going kind of slow, but I knew that going in … as a first-year coach and with young players, things tend to be that way,” she added. “As long as we get better at the intangibles — the little things that make a team a good ballclub.”