By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Clever Lady Blue Jays are eager to take the next step as a program.
Clever has its sights set on conference and district glory in 2019-20. The Lady Blue Jays (18-9 overall last season) are coming off their fourth straight season of 18 or more wins.
Clever hasn’t reached the postseason in that span, due to four-time defending state champion Strafford lurking in its district.
But a new season brings change and a fresh start.
Clever coach Dan Jones is excited about the potential of his returning group.
“We will be competitive from the start. This team has a huge upside and by season’s end, we will be ready to compete for an always-tough district title,” Jones said.
Clever is led by standout point guard and senior Allie Clevenger.
The 5’8” all-conference guard led Clever in scoring (15.6 points per game) and added nearly four rebounds and three assists per game as well.
Clevenger, who shot over 40 percent from 3-point range last season, is drawing interest from Division II schools like Drury and Central Missouri.
“Whoever gets her will not be disappointed,” Jones said.
Clever boasts an athletic 6-footer in senior Madison Gladney. She averaged 3.6 points per game and is Clever’s top returning rebounder (5.7 rpg).
“She had a great summer and will expand her game in all areas,” Jones said. “She will always be the most athletic player on the floor and will really surprise a lot of teams.”
Sophomore Ruthie Brown offers good size (5’10”) and upside as well, Jones said.
“She has a great shot and superior moves around the basket,” he said.
Jones enters his sixth season at Clever, where he’s gone 88-48 overall. He surpassed 300 career wins last season.
His lineup graduated three experienced varsity players in Harper Little, Abi Menzies and Tessa Newman.
“With the loss of our three seniors, we will have some work to do but we are very optimistic about the season,” Jones said.
Harper was an all-state selection and four-year starter who now plays at College of the Ozarks.
“She had an unparalleled stat line and was one of the most exciting players I’ve ever coached,” Jones said.
Menzies was a force in the post, Jones said. She now plays volleyball at College of the Ozarks.
Newman’s playing volleyball at Labette Community College in Parsons, Kan.
The three played vital roles in helping Clever establish itself as a prominent Class 3 program in the area.
“These three girls played together their whole life and together they were key in helping put (Clever) on the basketball map,” Jones said. “We will miss them but we’ll keep the winning tradition they brought.”
Newcomers include sophomores Carly and Mackenzie Simpson. The 5’8” twins transferred from Nixa.
“They’ve played basketball their whole lives and will make a huge impact for us,” Jones said.
Several juniors are also in line for playing time.
Jordan Palmer (5’6”) and Kendra Stewart (5’9”) bring energy and toughness.
“Jordan will give teams fits with her defense. She’s relentless and doesn’t know how to play slow,” Jones said. “Kendra will be strong in the post for us.”
Other juniors include Tori Raulston, Kadance McFall and Hayden Stewart.
“They will look to expand their roles as the season progresses,” Jones said.
Clever opens the regular season Nov. 22 at home against Marshfield.