(Photo by Josh Mills, Staff)
Third-year head coach Homer Jackson notes that his squad will not return any starters from the 2007-2008 season.
"We do not have any starters returning," Jackson said. "But we do have some girls with limited playing experience. We are very young. We have a lot of freshmen, some juniors and one senior. Our senior hasn't played in a while. We will rely on our younger girls who have played a good bit at the AAU and YMCA levels, as well as our girls who have school basketball experience."
Jackson points out Amber Minner and Monica Grey-El as key losses from last years team.
"Amber (Minner) is now playing basketball at Culver-Stockton University," he said. "We will also miss Monica Grey-El."
Jackson says he will particularly miss Minner's presence as his floor general. Minner scored in the double digits in 17 of her 22 games last season for the Lady Bulldogs.
Jackson said his team is working on their fundamentals and the ins and outs of the game.
"As far as our competitiveness, that has come a long way," he said. "We are doing a lot of hands-on learning of the fundamentals of the game. We are establishing our game plan and our style of play. The intricacies of the game, that is what we have to master. That is a big part of both our long term and short term goals"
Jackson also says that he and his assistant (Summer Ray) are working with the girls on their assignments in certain situations and on non-verbal commands to make communication easier.
"We are hoping that by the time we play our first game that we will have the infrastructure of our offenses, defenses and presses will be in place," he said. "We are working on using hand signals in place of those verbal commands to make communication more seamless and efficient."
With a young team, Jackson feels it will be essential to establish who his team's leaders are.
"We have not had a particular player emerge as a leader yet," he said. "I feel that leadership should come from the bottom up as opposed to the top down. I feel that the leader should not be established necessarily by a dominant personality, rather by someone who leads by example. We will be looking to see who will take that role."
Jackson said it is also unclear at this point which one of his girls will be major playmakers.
"Right now everyone is on the same page," Jackson said. "That could be good or that could be bad. We will be able to see who will really step up as possible playmakers for us in the next week or two."
Jackson thinks that chemistry and attitude are his teams primary strengths.
"I feel that our strength is our youth and our work ethic," he said. "I think our team has a very good chemistry. As a coaching staff, we are really focusing on emphasizing teamwork and sportsmanship. Our girls have really done a good job of embracing those principles. Our girls are very willing to learn and that has to be one of our biggest strengths. I feel that will be the key. Skill can be developed but attitude has to come from within."
In the way of weaknesses, Jackson points out turnovers as a possible obstacle to his team.
"What has hurt us historically is our turnovers, particularly in the back court going up against the press," he said. "With Amber (Minner) and Monica (Grey-El) gone, that will present a challenge this year as well. I think we can meet that challenge by using our quickness and our smarts. If we understand the game and our assignments, that can offset our experience issues. I do not feel that playing scared or accepting challenges will be a problem at all for this group of girls."
Jackson also says that he is working with his girls on not being critical of themselves or each other.
"Our weakness right now is learning not to be critical of ourselves and others," he said. "I feel that is a social skill and we are really working on that."
Jackson says that although his team is lacking in experience, that he enjoys working with a blank canvas.
"With our youthfulness, it is like working with a blank canvas," he said. "I will make the broad strokes, but our girls will have to go in and fill in the details. Everyone recognizes their strength and weaknesses. If my coaching staff and I can make those broad strokes, our girls can find a way to fit in and contribute to the program. It all goes back to leadership, some will have a bigger mark on the picture than others. But it is key that we have everyone to contribute to it, and I think that we will."
Jackson says that the future is bright for Sikeston Lady Bulldog basketball if everyone can keep focused.
"Barring any issues with injury, grades or discipline, the future for our program is very bright," he said. "The involvement of our parents has been and will continue to be very key in that aspect."
Jackson notes that a bridge program is needed to give Sikeston's girls more opportunities to play competitively.
"One need I do see for the future of the program is for a bridge program," he said. "Something like AAU or a traveling team to give these girls more opportunities to compete."
Jackson says that he feels the community will note that he has a "good" group of young women who will play with class.
"I appreciate the opportunity to coach these young ladies," he said. "I feel that when people come out to watch our girls that they will see just that, a group of young ladies that love to compete."
Jackson and the Lady Bulldogs will travel to Doniphan to start the season. The Dec. 1 game will tipoff at 6 p.m.