By Justin Sampson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Two years removed from a Class 5 quarterfinal appearance, Camdenton is back on a youth movement. The Lady Lakers enter the 2019-20 season with just two seniors and no juniors off a 19-9 season that ended in districts.
Fortunately, the Lady Lakers are used to success in the reloading process. They have yet to finish under .500 in seven seasons with head coach Staci Caffey.
“It will be a completely different outlook. There will be a lot of learning,” she said. “We don’t play until the first part of December and it’s good that we have a month to get ready. It’s going to be a complete overhaul of what we are normally used to.”
The Lady Lakers will be without some distinct firepower this winter, namely All-State selection Natalie Basham. Those points are up for grabs, a task that lone returning senior Shelby Kurtz should be up to. The four-year varsity player carries the highest active scoring average with 11.5 points per game as a junior, not to mention 4.6 rebounds, 3.0 assist, and 2.4 steals.
She will be the undisputed team leader as Caffey will look for the younger players to rally around her experience.
“You know you’re going to get everything she has. She’s the definition of what it means to be a Lady Laker. She’s hard-nosed and will play through anything. She’ll set that precedent for this year.”
Bionce Stocks is new to the fold after transferring from Rock Bridge to spend her senior season in purple. She was a key contributor on a team that felled Lebanon in the Class 5 sectionals before falling to Republic in the quarterfinals. Her scoring ability (12.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 3.5 APG, 2.3 SPG) will be a major boost to the starting lineup and Caffey expects her to fit right into the mold.
“She will be a help offensively and should fit right into the style of play that we like defensively. She’ll bring intensity and match the effort level that we expect.”
Behind those two, five sophomores are expected to see increased roles. Elle Turner (8.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.5 SPG), Payton Kinkaid (6.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.2 SPG), and Mya Hulett (4.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.0 SPG) should be regular sights in the starting lineup after their production in their first year of high school.
Fellow sophomores Charlotte Kutz and Sarah Holmes should also factor into varsity play more after getting the bulk of their minutes on the junior varsity squad last year.
The rest of the roster comes with question marks as Caffey has a pool of around a dozen freshman that could earn minutes. Camdenton will have to stay healthy to avoid trouble with its thin bench. Fortunately, the players with experience know that task in front of them and are motivated to conquer it.
“The great thing is that we have strong, competitive athletes,” said Caffey. “The core players will be there… we’ll just be young. We won a lot of games this summer and I liked to see how hard they went. Hopefully we can get everyone on the same page so that, when it comes gametime, our best foot is forward.”
Camdenton will open the season on Dec. 11 against Capital City.