By Will Willems
The Western Boone Lady Stars lost three of their five starters from a team that advanced to the sectional title a year ago.
But, even with just four players coming back from that team, head coach Rich Schelsky still has high expectations for the latest installment of his program.
“Our goals never really vary,” Schelsky said. “The first goal is we want to win the Sugar Creek Classic, which we have been fortunate enough to do the past several years. Then we want to win the conference, which we think will be pretty wide open. Then the third and most important goal is to be playing our best in the first week of February and win the sectional. Lebanon has been the favorite in the sectional, and I don’t think it is any secret that they don’t have an Indiana All-Star on their team and that makes things a little more wide open of everybody.”
The Stars have been officially practicing for the past week and half.
Schelsky said the biggest thing his team is working on right now is coming together and getting used to their new roles on the team.
“We are going to be a work in progress all season,” Schelsky said. “We do return some varsity players, but all of them are going to be in much different roles than they are used to. Right now, we have to find our identity, who our leaders are and what our roles are. We have been trying to decipher that these last couple of weeks and I think with this team it is going to continue to be a week by week progression and hopefully we continue to improve.”
The Stars return their leading scorer in sophomore Madison Jones, who averaged 14.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 3.1 steals last year.
Also back are three seniors that played on the varsity last year — Callie Gubera (6.2 points, 3.6 rebounds), Olivia Hole (5.9 points) and Maddie Wright (1.8 points).
All will have bigger roles on the team next year.
“The leadership has to come from our three seniors — Callie Gubera, Olivia Hole and Maddie Wright,” Schelsky said. “They are our three most experienced kids and have been through the battles and wars. From a playing standpoint, even though she is only a sophomore, Madison is a returning first-team all-conference player and we expect big things from her. But she is still going to have some growing pains, because she has only played in 26 varsity games. Callie and Olivia have to big for us this season. They have been the last few seasons, but we are going to need them more this year and they are going to have to carry larger roles this year.”
Also back his year is junior Kendra Nicley, who sat out last year with an ACL injury. As a freshman, she averaged 2.9 points a game. She along with Alayna Raby, will be thrust into big roles this winter.
“Alayna Raby had a tremendous JV season last year and got in to a few varsity games, but this will be her first go as a varsity basketball player and I am excited to see what she can do,” Schelsky said. “She brings a lot to the table. She has a lot of quickness and plays good defense. She scored 20 a game for the JV and that can help us on the varsity. Then we have Kendra Nicley back and that is huge. It might take her a while to get back in the swing of things and get some confidence in her knee, but that is someone that we are looking forward to seeing what she can do.”
All six of those players are multi-sport athletes that can contribute in a lot of different areas.
Schelsky said WeBo will have to use that athleticism to be successful.
“I think will be pretty athletic and quick,” Schelsky said. “I think we will be able to score when we need to. We have a nice mixture of kids who can shoot it and score in the paint. Those are going to be some of our strengths. On the other side, this is the smallest team we have had and not physically intimidating. With our schedule, that is going to be a huge factor with how we approach things.”
Western Boone finished 4-3 in the conference last year, finishing in fourth.
Schelsky said it is a wide open race this year, but a couple teams will be battling for the title throughout the season.
“Even though Lebanon graduated arguably the best women’s basketball player in the history of their school, I still think they are going to be right up there,” Schelsky said. “Coach (Beth) DeVinney is a great coach and she does a great job and they still have two very good guards that have a lot of experience. Danville has a great group of young, talented kids. They may get off to a little bit of a slow start, but they have some kids who can really play. Tri-West returns a ton of kids from a decent team last year and will be improved too.”
The girls will scrimmage McCutcheon on Thursday before heading up to Lafayette Jeff next Tuesday for the season opener.
Schelsky said the Stars have to utilize the time they have to get defensively and figure out a rotation.
“We have to find our identity on defense,” Schelsky said. “Right now we aren’t sure if we are a man team, a zone team, a pressure team or a sagging team. We have to find that out before Tuesday. On Thursday in our scrimmage, we have to figure out a rotation. With the number of girls we have coming back and newcomers, until you get them out in game situations, you don’t know your rotations. That is what we have to figure out before Tuesday.”