By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Few coaches are more excited about the 2017-18 season than Willard’s J.J. Adamson.
Entering his third season at the helm of Willard Basketball, Adamson returns four starters and several lettermen from a team that fell to eventual district champion Lebanon in the semifinals of the Class 5, District 10 tournament.
“We are really excited for the upcoming season,” said Adamson. “We feel like this group has some internal expectations for themselves and the attitude and effort level to reach those expectations. With only two seniors, injuries will play a huge part. If we are able to stay relatively injury-free this season, I think this group has a chance to compete at a high level. This group is also fun to be around and fun to coach! These young ladies work hard and I hope that hard work is rewarded this season.”
Among the returners is senior Joran Stout-Mitchell, who has been a mainstay on the All-COC team for the last few years. The 5-foot-10 forward is one of the most efficient post scorers in the Ozarks.
Although she is battling an injury, her presence on the floor when she returns will be a major lift.
“We are going to expect a lot from Joran this season,” said Adamson. “If she is unable to play for any length of time, it will really thrust Kaitlyn Burson and Megan Mahan into major minutes at the varsity level. Our expectation level for Joran will be the same whether is on the court or on the bench. We will ask her to be a positive leader for our squad and help bring the younger players along.”
While there are just two seniors on the roster, Willard is blessed with an abundance of young talent.
Brooklyn Wade is the other returning senior starter and her experience will be paramount. Juniors Josie Sanders, Liz Drennan and Hannah Bird all started as sophomores and will now take the floor with a year of experience under their belt.
Sanders earned All-COC honors last season and could be on the verge of a breakout season because of her ability to impact a game positively in so many ways.
“I think the world of Josie; she had a great sophomore campaign and has the chance to be a really good varsity player in the COC over the next two years,” said Adamson. “Josie was able to excel last season alongside Joran. If Joran’s injury does require surgery and it keeps her out for any length of time, it could mean a position or role shift for Josie on some nights but Josie is the kind of person and player who will accept, adapt and thrive in any situation.”
Adamson also expects junior Nona Adamson along with sophomores Kaitlyn Burson and Megan Mahan to be a crucial part of the Lady Tigers rotation.
Willard will still be young and the health of Stout-Mitchell will be a storyline in the COC throughout the season. However, come late February, this is a team that will be a player in race for conference and district championships, something that hasn’t happened in several years.
Adamson is a firm believe that his team’s success will come through controlling the controllables.
“This group has to do what we have done the last two seasons to try and build this program; have great attitude and effort,” said Adamson. “Those are the only two things we can control every time we step on the floor.
“We won’t be able to control how well we shoot the basketball or how well our opponents shoot it. We cannot control officiating or injuries. We can do everything in our power to affect those aspects but the only two things we can truly control are the attitudes we have toward each other, toward the game, toward our opponents and the level of effort we give individually and collectively on the basketball floor.”