After posting a 20-win season a year ago, Three Rivers women’s basketball will have an almost entirely new look in 2018. The Lady Raiders will return just three players and don’t have a true center listed on the roster after several recruits on a highly-touted freshman class left for four-year programs. “We lost 6’1” and 6’4” in the last two and a half, three weeks,” head coach Jeff Walk said. “So, we went from having pretty good post play we felt like, to not having much of a post presence at all.” Despite that, Walk is confident spreading the floor with a five out offense that relies on shooting, screens and cuts will help produce high-volume scoring and lead to a successful 2018-19 campaign. “We’re going to have three or four guards on the floor at all times,” Walk said. “I think our shooting will be better this year. … I’d like to push 85, 90 points a game.” Typically, playing small with players who are mostly inexperienced at the collegiate level can lead to some rebounding woes. Walk and Co-Head Coach Alex Wiggs aren’t worried about that because of the team’s athleticism and length. “We’re probably longer than what we’ve been in years past as far as 6’1”, 5’11”, 5’10”, then a lot of us are 5’9” range,” Wiggs said. “We did testing (Aug. 21), and we were pretty impressed with pushups and then their vertical. “We had a kid with a 28 1/2 half inch vertical and a couple that can grab the rim, so athleticism is there.” The coaches said two-sport freshman Lana Reed did 40 pushups during her conditioning test. Reed, a catcher for Malden, also signed to play softball for the Lady Raiders. With small ball being the mode of operation this season, Wiggs said the team should be capable of finding mismatches throughout games by getting bigger players switched onto guards, something that could cause problems for opposing teams around the perimeter. The biggest priority for Walk and Wiggs hasn’t been finding players that fit a certain style; the criteria has been finding winners, a recruiting strategy that worked well last season. Springfield native Hannah Collins was on a state runner up team as a senior in high school. An’Nayuh Pettis was a Class 7 state champion in Arkansas her sophomore and senior years in high school.
“We talked about it last year. Trying to find kids that know how to win, come from winning programs,” Wiggs said. “I feel like we’ve accomplished that. They know what it takes to be good.” Even with the winning nature of a lot of the team’s recruits, adjusting to the difference in skill and physicality of the college level can be a challenge of its own for a group of nine freshmen. Hopefully, we’ll get some of the nerves out, but having nine freshmen, you just never know how they mature,” Wiggs said. “These next couple months will be pretty big to feel how that’s going to be, and I think even our preseason jamborees are going to be pretty big in seeing how quickly we mature.” Three Rivers will first test that maturity when it competes in The Courts Jamboree Oct. 13 in Springfield. Its regular season will tip off at 5 p.m. Nov. 1 at Arkansas State Mid-South.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic