Last year, the Lady Bulldogs won 18 games which set a new program record for wins. Sikeston lost to Notre Dame in the Class 4, District 1 tournament to end the season with seven losses.
Sikeston lost some key personnel from last year in leading scorer Allison Blurton, leading rebounder Martika Davis and the graduated Whitney McCray. Blurton was an All-Region player for the Lady Bulldogs averaging 17 points per game. Blurton is currently playing basketball for the Three Rivers Lady Raiders in Poplar Bluff.
McCray was a solid presence in the post for the Lady Bulldogs after the holiday break with 10 points and six rebounds per game. Davis averaged 10 points and seven rebounds per game as a sophomore for Sikeston. Davis decided not to try out for the team this year.
Despite the losses for the 2006-07 season, Sikeston does have three key starters returning in senior Latoya Gipson, junior Amber Minner and sophomore Keyarra Blissett.
Before leaving the team for personal reasons toward the end of the regular season last year, Gipson (5-9) averaged close to 15 points per game and was lethal out on the perimeter or down low on the blocks.
This season, Gipson looks in prime shape and Jackson hopes for her to have a leadership role for the year.
"I am looking for Latoya to be a leader this year," said Jackson. "She is a senior and she needs to be the type of athlete we need to be successful. We need her to play hard on every play, help out her teammates and lead by example. She is a vocal leader and we want her to lead by example as well. That will be a good combination for us."
Minner (5-6) is a cat-quick point guard who averaged around eight points and five assists per game last year. Minner will run the offense and her quickness should be an asset for Sikeston on the defensive end. Minner has been working on her mid-range jump shot and could be an offensive threat driving in the lane for the Lady Bulldogs.
"We are going to give Amber the green light to shoot in certain areas," said Jackson. "We want her to improve her decision-making and make her a scorer, not just a shooter. Don't be a shooter, be a scorer. It will give us an added edge for her to think as a scorer and not just a shooter."
Blissett (5-8) will be a force inside for the Lady Bulldogs. Blissett averaged five points and four rebounds a game last year as a freshman.
Jackson believes the returners for Sikeston bring back experience and a familiarity of playing together.
"The three returners are working well together and are forming a good unity," said Jackson. "That chemistry is good for our young girls to see and try to emulate that type of play."
Jackson, who hasn't been a head coach since 1990 with the Sikeston freshman boys team, is trying to instill a new system for the Lady Bulldogs after the departure of one-year head coach Fred Johnson.
"The mentality right now is the girls have to commit themselves to work," said Jackson. "We are trying to operate under four principles: unity, cooperation, virtue and justice. We are going to take those terms and apply them to basketball. With unity, the girls have to trust each other and cooperate. They have to be honest, give their best and even when things are not going our way, we still have to play by the rules. We hope to redefine winning and losing. If we give our best effort, we are winners. If we don't, we are losers."
The Lady Bulldogs will have an interesting talent in 6-foot-2 freshman Monika Grey-el.
"She is young and doesn't have much experience on the floor," said Jackson. "We're working on fundamentals of footwork, where she is comfortable defending and where she is comfortable shooting the ball."
Jackson likes the way his team is recognizing certain defenses on the floor. "We are doing a good job early of understanding the strengths and weaknesses of a defense," said Jackson. "Instead of me calling out a play all the time, they can see what the defense is doing from their perspective and I can trust them to be the quarterback."
Sikeston will play both an up-tempo game and will be able to slow it down and run the offense according to Jackson. The Lady Bulldogs on defense will play both a man-to-man defense and a zone depending on the strengths of the opposing teams according to Jackson.
A weakness for Sikeston could be a dearth of solid long-range shooters to open up the paint for the Lady Bulldogs' inside game.
"If we are looking to make a lot of three-pointers," said Jackson, "then we are going to struggle. Our strength is going to be the mid-range jump shot. We will have success with the mid-range jumper. We don't have a consistent three-point shooter at this point."
Like last year, Class 4, District 1 will be a tough district to win for the Lady Bulldogs.
Defending district champ Fredericktown returns its top two players, Notre Dame will be salty with player of the year candidate Kristain Burger, Ste. Genevieve returns all of its starters and Dexter will have a lot of talent returning as well.
Besides district play, Sikeston will participate in the Chaffee Tournament starting on Dec. 4 and the always-tough Twin Rivers Christmas Tournament, which will start on Dec. 16.
In the regular season, Sikeston will face stalwarts like Doniphan, Jackson, Poplar Bluff and a Delta Lady Bobcats that returns most of their starters from a team that finished in fourth place in Class 1 last season.
"We won't fear anybody we will play," said Jackson, "but we will respect them. We respect them because they are working hard in the gym just like we are. We can't take anyone lightly because we are way too young."
The journey begins at Doniphan for the Lady Bulldogs on Nov. 27 at 6 p.m.