For any freshman girls basketball player trying to perform at the varsity level, it can be compared to survival of the fittest.
Northwest Byron Nelson sophomore forward Hunter Roach recognized the challenges of trying to keep up and maintain during her freshman season. As it turned out, she handled it more than pretty well. She was the team’s most valuable player.
Playing at the top of former head coach Darren Wilson’s full-court press approach, Roach used her offense for defense. She averaged three steals as the Lady Bobcats put together a credible 16-14 season in 2015-2016.
“I was really surprised I made the varsity,” Roach said. “We were doing a book study before the season at a school. When a group of us went into one room, Coach Wilson said we were the varsity team. It was exciting to get the news.”
Nelson’s turnaround season was important because the 2014-2015 season was rough from the beginning. The program didn’t reach double figures in wins. But this new group of prospects – several coming from Medlin Middle School – was pretty intriguing. They lost only one game between seventh and eighth grade and collected district championships.
Roach (5-10) became the perfect candidate to put at the top of the defense because of her length and her reach. She also had the quickness to push the opposing ball handler to one side of the court and set up the trap. That parlayed to the steals and was partly why she led all Nelson scorers with 10 points and seven rebounds per game.
“I really like getting steals and fast breaks and love to be active with my hands,” she said. “Occasionally, I would get a chance to shoot a three. But I wound up doing a little bit of everything.”
When Roach moved up and would sometimes go on the block, she surrendered size and experience. That was a learning curve as well. Wilson then found a way to get her away from the basket and turn her into a shooter.
Like this young team, Roach also endured some streaks. Nelson started district play at 0-5 before it won five of its last nine to finish 5-9. If nothing else, the Lady Bobcats made something out of their season.
“She became more confident and aggressive as the year went,” said Wilson, who stepped down in the spring, citing health concerns. “I expect her to be more consistent with her perimeter game to increase her scoring.”
That’s what new coach Jim Avery is hoping for as well. Because he came from West Texas, Avery didn’t get to interact with the players much. However, they worked his camp in June. Avery said he was impressed with Roach’s leadership potential. But the good news is that Avery is going to implement a full-court offensive and defensive approach like Wilson did. How Roach’s role will change should develop once the offseason starts.
Regardless, Nelson will face a daunting task of playing in a very demanding district (5-6A) that will feature Euless Trinity, Carroll, Flower Mound, Flower Mound Marcus and Hebron. Hurst L.D. Bell showcases 2017 UConn commit Lexi Gordon.
“I’m just working on all parts of my game so I can beat people off the dribble and go up stronger,” Roach said. “We’re just going to have to pick up our intensity for each game.”