By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
To be honest, Thayer is a little salty, for good reason.
Which could be bad news for everyone else in Class 2.
The Lady Bobcats have posted a combined 50-3 record over the last two years with a pair of South Central Association championships, but Thayer has failed to advance to March in each of the last two seasons.
In each instance, Thayer had to watch Neelyville make the run that could’ve been theirs, one that ended with a Class 2 state championship last season.
In its third year under Cecil Meyer, Thayer and all-time great Julie Stone will look to change that this season, despite returning just two starters.
“We return two starters which can be deceiving because we bring back three kids who, in most years, would have started,” said Meyer. “We were just really senior heavy.”
Leading the returners will be Stone, a two-time SCA Player of the Year selection after averaging 17.5 PPG, 5 APG, 5 RPG, 4.5 SPG and shooting a blistering 50 percent from the field and 39 percent from deep. The College of the Ozarks commit is one of the top players in Missouri.
“You don’t get the opportunity to coach kids like Julie very often, so when you do you better enjoy it while it last, and we have,” said Meyer. “We plan for Julie to bring what she normally brings plus more with another year of experience under her belt. She has been more vocal in the weight room and during conditioning which is something I have felt she has been missing the last two years.”
Angela Sorrell is no stranger to wins at Thayer as a four-year starter. The All-SCA pick is another player that fits in with what seems to be a theme on Thayer’s roster; versatility.
“We have another senior returning that is a four-year starter in Angela. She was very good this summer and could do a lot of different things from shooting the 3 to rebounding the basketball.”
Even aside from Stone and Sorrell, Thayer has plenty of weapons and firepower.
Junior Jurnee Rolen, sophomores Maddy Kerley, Marissa Webber, Haddlee Atkisson, Avery Pierce and Katie Wade will all figure into the rotation.
“Jurnee has played a lot of minutes over the last two years, she is a smart kid who needs to make open shots for us this year,” said Meyer. “Maddy is a sophomore who we are expecting to get big things out of. she can really shoot the ball and does a great job defensively. Marissa is a sophomore that is going to have to give us minutes, she is so strong and physical, she is every coach’s dream, loves to do the dirty work.
“From there we have a pair of sophomore guards who we will need to step up and give us some minutes. Haddlee developed her shot last year and her quickness and heart will have her ready to give us some minutes. Avery is the other guard that will give us some minutes, she has a good basketball IQ needs to increase her range but all she has to do for us this year is guard hard and take care of the ball. Katie is a sophomore that I am curious to see how she reacts this year. She is long and athletic, and shoots the ball very well, if she brings some toughness and learns to compete every possession she could be the piece to the puzzle we are missing.”
Thayer also has one of the Ozarks’ most intriguing players in Shelby Coursey.
The 6-foot-1 sophomore can play in the post or on the perimeter, with her frame making her a high-level college basketball prospect.
“Shelby was ready to take that step middle of January last year and she had a foot injury that kept her out a month, so I truly believe she will come out ready,” said Meyer. “Shelby has post player’s size and a guard skill set; the sky is the limit for her. Shelby is a great kid to coach cause you can get in her face and challenge her and she accepts the challenge.”
One thing that will change this year is Thayer’s schedule.
The Lady Cats have a gauntlet planned, which includes Arkansas power Jonesboro, Class 5 Poplar Bluff, Class 4s Nevada and Dexter, and the Pink & White Lady Classic.
“The first year we let one slip away from us, no doubt about it,” said Meyer. “Last year I feel our schedule hurt us a little bit. We have a schedule this year that is a strong as we can get it being isolated as much as we are.”
As much as basketball pundits may view this as a Final Four or bust year, Meyer doesn’t see it that way. Obviously, this group is hungry to advance past districts and get a revengeful win over Neelyville, but even that won’t completely wipe away previous memories.
Meyer is hopeful this group keeps in mind that this is a new year with a new group, which means the goals and expectations should also reset.
“There is no doubt that a district title is at the front of everyone’s mind, but to say it’s a bust would trivialize the rest of the goals we have,” said Meyer. “It’s our first year in the Pink and White, we would like to have a good showing in that and compete with the great schools they have in that tournament. We would like to three-peat as conference champs, so although a district championship is the driving force behind how hard we work in the off-season it is not our only goal.”
Thayer will open the 2018-19 season on Dec. 3 at the Border War.