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UC girls looking only as far as next game

UC girls looking only as far as next game
UC girls looking only as far as next game | UC girls looking only as far as next game

By KEVIN WEAKS
Messenger Sports
Eddie Suiter and his Union City girls’ basketball team are not thinking about making a trip to Murfreesboro in March.
They’re all simply focused on going to Henderson this week.
Eight months have passed since the Lady Tornado program made history by reaching the TSSAA Class 1A state tournament, where they defeated Wartburg before falling to Jackson County in the semifinals. Getting back to that point is still another four months away, and Suiter is making sure his squad pays attention to each step along the way rather than the final destination.
The first step will be Thursday, when the Twisters visit Chester County in the season-opening Hall of Champions game.
“We’re not talking about getting back to the state tournament,” Suiter said. “It’s all about what are you going to do today to get better. Out next opponent is Chester County, so that’s who we’ll talk about. We’re not getting ready for the district championship game today or tomorrow.”
However, while Suiter and his staff of Nelson Youngblood and Chuck Reedy are not talking about a return trip, the head coach does like what he hears when his players talk about last season.
“I am glad the kids weren’t satisfied,” Suiter said. “That was the talk, even in the summer. There was no celebrating the fact that we were in the Final 4. It was more about if we could’ve won just two more games, and I was glad to hear that. It’d be easy to sit back and be satisfied. I’m not going to lie. Yes, it’s motivation for the kids. But, it is something we’re going to stress? Absolutely not.”
That talk of finishing the job is, Suiter believes, simply a continuation of the mentality now in place within the Lady Tornadoes’ program. There is now a competitive spirit among the players that has them not only embracing games, but actually relishing the challenge.
“The mindset thing was what we’ve tried to change in the first few years after we got here,” he said. “We feel they want to compete every day now. Proof of that was a scrimmage day at Murfreesboro. We hadn’t done anything like that other than summer camps, but our kids stepped on the court wanting to play and compete no matter the size or quickness of the teams or the size of the schools.
“The kids are very competitive now. Even in practice now, we can put five kids on five kids and get a lot more done than we were able to in the past.”
To take yet another step will mean overcoming some adversity, which UC has been dealing with over the past few weeks.
Amber Fair, last year’s team leader who capped off a brilliant sophomore season with an All-State Tournament selection, suffered an off-season knee injury that required surgery. She is not expected back into the lineup until January.
Again, Suiter says the team’s new mental toughness has allowed the players to handle the loss.
“We really like their grit and work ethic,” he said. “We’ve had some adversity with injuries, and the kids might have been down a day or two. But, they’ve come back ready to work since then.”
Still, not having such a multi-talented and game-changing performer in his lineup will certainly have an effect on the team.
“She’s a multiple position kid,” Suiter said. “It’s not like we hand that over to Raven Fair or Tamara Nettles and say, ‘You have her minutes.’ You just kind of fill it with a bunch of different stuff.”
A big-time scorer with already 1,000 points for her prep career, Fair is big on the glass, too, who can handle the ball and protect possessions with her skills.
With Fair out for now and a roster full of kids who can fill a lot of different roles, Suiter heads into the season opener knowing three starting spots are filled. Tori Reedy, Jackie Hudson and Kaleigh Bynum have been mainstays in the starting lineup through the summer, and Suiter is stressing to all his players that the more they can do, the more they will play.
“We expect kids to be basketball players first, and if that means a big kid has to handle the ball, then so be it,” the head coach said. “We’ve told the kids the more interchangeable they can be, the more minutes they’ll get.”
Reedy, the lone senior, is best described as a point forward and is the player that gets UC set up and settled down. Inside, Suiter describes Bynum a “garbage player” who embraces that role of picking up all the loose balls and finishing off possessions.
Hudson is more comfortable inside and will play on the blocks when needed, but she can create off the dribble and will face the basket when the team shows a bigger lineup. She will also draw the opponent’s best player on most nights.
Nettles, a junior who was ruled ineligible last season after playing in four wins that UC was forced to vacate, uses her athleticism well and has shown a knack for rebounding, while sophomore Raven Fair is loaded with confidence and can shoot teams out of a zone. Improved play on defense will get her more minutes.
Defense is how fellow sophomore Kealie Reaves earned considerable playing time last season, and Kieesha Alexander, yet another sophomore, has such good instincts that the staff is looking for ways to get her on the floor.
Suiter likes how Kristian Davis, another 10th-grader, has improved her ball-handling and hopes she can develop into more than just the catch-and-shoot player she was last season.
“If things are going in our favor, we have four kids on the floor at any time that we can post up,” Suiter said. “But, our bigs also handle the ball pretty good.”
Bynum is not going to get out and handle the ball at the point, but we’re comfortable moving her outside if we have a better match-up with someone else posting up. That’s another thing we like about these kids, in addition to their competitiveness, is that they’ll just go in and do the job.”
Messenger sports reporter Kevin Weaks can be contacted by email at kweaks@ucmessenger.com.

Published in The Messenger 11.14.12

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