By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Joplin’s girls basketball team won just nine games across three seasons before the arrival of head coach Luke Floyd, but the Eagles certainly made some strides in Floyd’s first year at the helm.
Joplin finished 7-19 last season, its most wins since 2016-17, as Floyd tried to lay a foundation for the future of the program.
“We spent all season just teaching how we do things,” he said. “Trying to raise the expectations of what Joplin girls basketball can be. I think we really got that message across. This year we should be able to hit the ground running when we get going.”
The Eagles return about four starters this season. Senior Emma Floyd averaged 7.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and two blocks per game. Senior Brooke Nice averaged 8.7 points and 2.7 rebounds, junior Brynn Driver averaged 8.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists and junior Isabella Yust averaged four points and 2.3 rebounds.
“They’re a good group of ballplayers,” Floyd said. “Emma, Brooke and Brynn all averaged right around eight points per game. They’re a good chunk of our scoring coming back. Brooke’s and Brynn have both been in the program for a while now. Emma’s my daughter so she’s grown up around me and in the gym so she knows what I expect and how our teams are supposed to play. Just having their leadership alone will be great. There were some games we were very competitive but we didn’t end up winning against some really quality teams where they realized we can end up playing with anybody. Hopefully this season we have the mindset we’re not hoping to win but we’re expecting to win most nights.”
Floyd was the only Eagle to earn postseason honors last year. She was named to the COC’s All-Defense team and was also an All-District selection.
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Senior Ella Hafer should provide a big boost. She only played in about four quarters across two games last year but averaged 7.5 points and three rebounds in that limited action. She was limited to a handful of games as a sophomore, as well.
“When Ella’s healthy there are very few people who can match her athleticism,” Floyd said. “Similar to Emma she’s a coach’s kid and has grown up around the game. She has a high basketball IQ and will give us one more person on the floor to calm us down when we need it and be a scoring threat and a defensive stopper. Her all around game is really going to elevate what we’re able to do in our program.”
Floyd expects a few girls who haven’t played basketball in the past to help out this season, and he also anticipates a large and talented freshman class. The freshmen who played with the team over the summer showed a lot of potential, he said.
Whoever comes out, Floyd wants to see the Eagles push the ball and get up and down the floor, something they weren’t able to do as much as he wanted last year because of depth and turnover woes.
“Defensively I thought for the most part we guarded really well,” he said. “That’s what our team will be known for. We’re going to get up and guard and really pressure you and try to force some turnovers that will allow us to get out and run. We want to have a blue collar mentality, diving on the floor for loose balls, fighting for every rebound. That’s what the girls started to buy into last year. As we build our program, the biggest thing we’re going to struggle with is the mental part of it. We have to expect to win every night and we can’t have nights where Joplin beats Joplin. We gave away five or six games last year we should have won where we simply beat ourselves.”
Joplin is slated to play in a jamboree at Monett on Nov. 12. The regular season opens Nov. 19 with a home game against Cassville. The Eagles will host the Lady Eagle Classic in December and will also play in Carl Junction and Lebanon tournaments.
“We’re excited for the season,” Floyd said. “I know as a coaching staff we were ready to go about a week after last season ended because we saw the potential of what we could be and I’m ready to get in the gym and see who shows up the first day and see what we can build on. This will be our fourth year in the COC and I don’t believe we’ve ever won a conference game. We want to get over that milestone, see how we can progress and how the girls handle higher expectations this year.”