Losing four college-caliber players to graduation could mean a dry spell to a girls basketball program.Southlake Carroll became young this season after the exit of those four. However, the Dragons still might be one of the most experienced teams in the Metroplex as the 2012-13 UIL girls basketball season begins in earnest on Tuesday.Continual rotation throughout last season helped Dragons coach Teri Morrison create a squad for the coming season that has largely skipped the steps of a lengthy learning process in grasping the coach's offensive plays and defensive schemes.Morrison believes that leading this Carroll team is one of the strongest backcourts in the state: senior Kami Mickens and sophomore Kennedy Leonard."I'm not saying they're the best, but they are the total package," Morrison said. "Defensively and the way they see the floor offensively; it's going to be a great strength for us."Mickens, a four-year varsity player, takes the reins of the offense at point guard, moving from shooting guard. As a junior shooting guard, Mickens averaged just under eight points and two assists per game."She has taken it on herself as a senior to lead this team and in practice she's really holding everyone accountable," Morrison said. "So I think our structure is better at this point than we've had in a long time."Alongside Mickens is Leonard, who saw extensive playing time as a freshman. Leonard was third on the team in points per game with almost nine and led the team in assists per game with 5.5."Kennedy is the total package," Morrison said. "If you come up on her she's going to drive by you and assist. If you drop off on her she'll hit the 3. She does things you can't coach. She's a great leader and sees the floor well without me having to tell her."Carroll's most obvious loss is in the post, graduating Kayla Reinhart and 6-footer Janelle Jenkins. However, Morrison is waiting on Carroll's volleyball team to finish a successful season to pick up 6-foot-1 sophomore post Madison Drescher on her basketball roster. Along with Drescher, Morrison has options in two more 6-footers, freshman Anna Hurlburt and sophomore Sarah Williams."They're really good at blocking shots and posting up. We're going to be long and lean, because they're skinny but tall."With the abundance of talent on Carroll's roster last season, the Dragons fell short of expectations, ending the season in the Class 5A regional quarterfinals. Little consolation was found by Morrison or her team in the fact that the loss came to the eventual 5A state champion, Duncanville.Carroll (31-4 last season) begins the season ranked No. 5 in the TABC preseason poll and Morrison believes that despite a young team, expectations remain just as high, if not higher, for this squad, should it stay healthy."At the end of the season, if they progress like we're supposed to, we can go farther than we did last season," Morrison said.
Five teams to watch
Mansfield Summit (31-4) : After claiming a 4A state title last season, Summit enters this season ranked No. 4 in the TABC 4A preseason poll.
Aledo (29-5): This team lived and died by the 3-pointer, seeing a season where the majority of the shots fell. Can the No. 14 4A team keep the same streak this season?
Granbury (29-9): The No. 15 team begins the season with possibly the toughest game it could face throughout the regular season against Mansfield Summit, in what could have been last season's regional final.
Arlington Bowie (28-7): Bowie began last season highly ranked, but found a quick exit in the second round. Ranked No. 24 in 5A this season, Bowie hopes to find more success as more of an underdog.
Kennedale (30-7): Opens the season as the No. 1 team in 3AFive players to watch
Maya Hawkins, 5-9, Sr., Mansfield Lake Ridge (Mansfield Summit): 15 ppg, 3.8 apg, 3.8 spg. Led the Jaguars in scoring, assists, steals and to second consecutive undefeated District 7-4A title.
Lilley VanderZee, 6-3, Sr., Granbury: 20.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.7 bpg. Possibly the best post presence in the Metroplex.
Lili Thompson, 5-8, Sr. ,Mansfield Timberview: 13 ppg, 3 apg. Thompson is a physical force for a guard with excellent court vision. Committed to Stanford this summer.
Jamaika Hughes, 5-9, Jr., Kennedale: 14.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.7 spg, 4.5 apg. TABC All-State, District MVP
Mallory Powell, 5-10, Sr., Aledo: 18.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 4.2 spg. Shot 41 percent from behind the arc on one of the best 3-point teams in the area.