By Chris Parker
The Clever girls basketball team has won at least 18 games in five consecutive seasons, but a district title has eluded the Lady Jays.
If Clever is to break through this year, they will have to replace all-state selection Allie Clevenger. Clevenger, who is now at Drury, averaged 23.9 points per game last season.
“I will miss Allie’s court presence and her brilliance on both ends of the floor. She was an awesome player to coach, not the kind you can replace you just move forward and are thankful to have had the opportunity to coach a player like her,” Clever head coach Dan Jones said.
Madison Gladney also graduated taking with her 7.2 points per game.
Junior Ruthie Brown will see her role expand this year. She was the team’s second-leading scorer behind Clevenger last year averaging 10.9 points per game. Brown earned second-team all-conference honors last year.
“Ruthie will be expected to fill some of the offense and defense that was vacated when Allie and Madison graduated. I think she is up to the task,” Jones said. “She had a strong summer and has been training hard for this opportunity. She will play kind of a stretch three and some straight four. Her greatest asset is her scoring with the ability to shoot outside and get to the rim with a variety of moves.”
Twins Mackenzie and Carly Simpson return after averaging 8.6 and 7.8 points per game last year. They were the third and four-leading scorers on the team with Mackenzie earning honorable mention all-conference honors.
“The twins have both improved in the ball handling and attack categories. They are both good shooters and have exceptional court vision,” Jones said. “They will both play the two spot and Carly could see some time at the point. I expect them to both show great poise and to be leaders to a group of very talented freshmen that have joined us.”
Jordan Palmer has shown great improvement ahead of her senior season.
“I have been super impressed with last year’s sixth man Jordan Palmer’s progression thru the summer and in the preseason,” Jones said. “She is going to be a difference-maker on both ends of the court. She is determined and hard-nosed and is preparing to have a great senior year.”
Two other returning seniors looking to make an impact are: Kendra Stewart and Kadance McFall.
Junior transfer Mariah Robinson will be a key player for Clever this year after starting the past two years at Hillcrest. Avery Whitlinger is a sophomore that transferred in from Hurley.
Clever also has a large class of freshmen that will make an immediate impact on varsity.
“This will be the deepest squad I have had in my six years at Clever. We have a lot of girls that could break onto varsity,” Jones said. “We have a core of three starters and several girls with good minutes from last year returning. We have a strong group of freshmen coming in with three talented freshmen that have moved in. Not to mention Riah and two other sophomores that have come in. This will be a whole new team with a lot of youth and a lot to figure out, but one thing is for sure practices are going to be as fun to coach and watch as games. With the intensity this new group of players brings in and the work ethic. I expect us to have worked out the bugs and compete for a district championship.”
Clever opens the season on Nov. 23 at Marshfield before playing in the Fair Grove Invitational Nov. 30-Dec. 4.