The Waite girls return 6-3 junior forward Natasha Howard, and add to the mix 6-2 sophomore center Shanice McNeal and 6-2 junior forward Amanda Gregory.
In turn, Waite was picked to win a City title. Coach Manny May believes a decrease in mistakes and turnovers could spell the difference by the time the season reaches its prime.
“We had quite a few last year but we had fewer at the end of the season. We lived with some young mistakes last year,” May said.
Last season, the Waite boys played Division I state champion Newark during the regular season, losing by five points, 52-47. So far, the players are buying into what Coach Dave Pitsenbarger’s staff is teaching them. He said other factors have contributed to the Indians’ early success as well.
“We’re going to have to understand what we need to do offensively and defensively and have them believe in us as coaches,” Pitsenbarger said. “We’re going to have to make better decisions. We have a really tough schedule, so they’re going to have to come ready and focused to play every night.”
Comets, Flyers, & Cardinals
In the SLL, even though Woodmore and Genoa will have something to say about it, league favorite Eastwood’s front line includes five players standing over 6-foot-4.
That doesn’t include quality backcourt talent coming up from younger levels, if Coach Todd Henline can get his players to perform at their best levels.
“The jayvees were 14-6 last year and I think we’re going to have some kids who are going to be able to step in and fill that scoring and rebounding void that we lost in Chad Fairbanks (14 ppg., 7 rpg.),” Henline said.
On the SLL girls’ side, first-year Lake coach Denny Meyer is trying to continue the rebuilding process started by Richard Fox. Meyer has been rewarded, as SLL coaches picked Lake to win a championship.
The Flyers are led by sophomore scoring sensation Kaysie Brittenham, but add to the mix a host of talented athletes which include two transfers who learned previously from veteran Oak Harbor coach Dick Heller. One of those transfers is Coach Meyer’s daughter.
The Lady Flyers have depth, talent, and athletic ability, but the one remaining question is whether they can get used to winning.
“We tell them all the time, 30 years is long enough – let’s win the league,” Coach Meyer said.
In the TAAC, Cardinal Stritch is always king, or queen, on the girls court and expects to be again. The Lady Cardinals hope, however, to avoid last year’s postseason fiasco when they were upset by Swanton in the sectional playoffs, after defeating the Lady Bulldogs in the regular season.
Coach Gary Lemle welcomes in a new assistant in Brittney Barrera, who played for Lemle on the 2004 Lady Cardinals regional finalist team.
“We should be pretty steady on the floor,” said Lemle. “Our inside post play should be very strong, and obviously it helps having six letter winners back.”
The success of Coach Jim Sheehy will most likely continue on the boys’ side. But the Cardinal boys will have to deal with the talent provided by Ottawa Hills and Toledo Christian if they want to contend for a TAAC title.
“The season’s going to be interesting,” said Sheehy. “The kids are chomping at the bit, and are ready to go.”
(Press basketball previews are written by contributors Mark Griffin, Jeffrey D. Norwalk, Scott Calhoun, and Nick Huenefeld. They also contributed to the preview features about Waite and this column).