Gainesville has a new head girls basketball coach in Dillon Garnette this season. Garnette comes to Gainesville after stints as an assistant at Neelyville and as head coach at Dixon and Iberia. He is excited to be at Gainesville and be closer to his hometown of Valley Springs, Ark.
“My wife and I wanted to be closer to our family, and this was much closer than where we were and Gainesville is historically a good program and I was interested in being a part of that tradition,” Garnette said.
He has a strong starting point in his first season with sophomore Elizabeth Kinworthy. She had a strong freshman year that saw her finish second on the team in scoring (10.1 ppg) and lead the team in rebounding (5.2 rpg).
“We will expect a lot of the same out of Liz. Of course with some improvement to go along with what she was already capable of,” Garnette said. “We have a good group around her and hopefully can maximize her ability with our team outlook and hopefully she can have a strong sophomore campaign.”
Cassie Carlo will be a senior leader after scoring 6.9 points and pulling down 4.6 rebounds per game as a junior.
“Cassie is going to be one of our leaders this year. I really look for her to step up both statistically, physically, and vocally for our team. She is a senior and she wants to go out on a good year. She had a good summer and learned some new skills and improved on a couple other areas. We are looking for Cassie to be an impact player this year,” Garnette said.
Fellow senior Natalie Kiger along with juniors Brexton Miller, Ashley Poe and Patience Naegele and sophomores Shayla Wages and Erin McKinzie return to the varsity rotation as well.
Junior Nova Newkirk, sophomore Gracie Strain and freshmen Hallee Donley and Debra Winrod will be some new names to watch on varsity.
Versatility will be a key for the Lady Bulldogs this year.
“I believe our team’s biggest strength is going to be our versatility,” Garnette said. “We have several girls that are long and tall and can play multiple positions. I don’t feel as though foul trouble is going to kill us if we have a girl or two get in foul trouble early.”
The Lady Bulldogs did lose their top player and floor general Aspyn Britt to graduation. Replacing her will be a tall task.
“We will need to improve our offensive flow. We lost a really good point guard in Aspyn Britt and we are looking to replace her ball handling, but the ballhandling isn’t the biggest part of it. It is going to be getting into a flow on offense and continuing that throughout a game and not becoming stagnant or getting impatient,” Garnette said.
Garnette hopes having a deep team with competitive practices will help pay off in the form of wins this year.
“I expect us to be competitive and really compete in each and every game no matter who we are playing,” Garnette said. “We have a lot of girls that can play quality time and I feel as though our practices should be extremely competitive which will hopefully translate into success during the season.”
Gainesville opens the season on Nov. 26 at Willow Springs.