All the roster spots are filled for the Three Rivers Lady Raider basketball team as they get ramped up for next season.
Head coach Alex Wiggs and assistant Caleb Livingston were busy this summer bringing in another freshman class with a few transfers, and they are ready to get to work.
“Our recruiting went pretty well this summer,” Wiggs said. “We are officially done with our roster and it feels good. “We’ll have 13 new players with three returners, so we’re going to look a little different than what our fans are accustomed to seeing.
“We definitely got a lot more size this year than we had in the last three years. Our big goal during this recruiting period was to get bigger and more athletic at all positions, and we’ve done that.”
The Lady Raiders finished the season 22-6 and ranked number 20 in the country but had their postseason cut short in the first round against Gulf Coast State. The Lady Raiders have made it to the NJCAA women’s basketball tournament for three consecutive seasons for the past few years.
Despite the success, getting to the national tournament wasn’t enough, so Wiggs and Livingston used the summer to find the pieces that could help them advance even further.
“Competing at the national tournament in the last three years is a great accomplishment, but it was important for us to get better in the areas that needed improvement,” Wiggs said. “Coach Livingston has done a phenomenal job going out and finding those really good players. I really like where we’re at heading into next season.”
Though adding 13 new members to the squad may seem to some as starting from scratch, Wiggs assures they are adding some much-needed pieces to the Lady Raiders’ roster for another trip to the national tournament.
Wiggs said this summer was about grabbing size, and they did just that by bringing in multiple players throughout the Southeast region.
The Lady Raiders’ first summer commitment is a 6-foot-3 freshman forward, Samari Taylor from Louisville, Kentucky. Livingston was impressed with the game footage he saw of Taylor and immediately brought her onto the team.
“We beat out some pretty good junior colleges to get Taylor here,” Livingston said. “Everyone wants size, and for our first recruit to be a 6-foot-3 kid that has a lot of potential, that is long and athletic, it’s just a great move for us to get better and better.”
Alongside Taylor is freshman guard Jasmine Davis from Arkansas, who Livingston said is super strong and athletic. With some key focus on shot development, Livingston believes she will be a huge asset to the team with her versatility. With ties to Memphis, Livingston has also added another slashing guard with freshman guard Brittani Wells.
Another key size player for the Lady Raiders is a 6-foot-4 freshman forward, Yannie Flemings from New Orleans. Flemings is a strong and athletic player with a solid frame, and both coaches are excited to have her on the roster.
“We saw some film on Flemings during her junior year in high school, and we wanted her then,” Livingston said. “She’s an awesome kid, and the crowd will love her. She may come off as a soft person and fan favorite off the court, but she’s going to play physically on the court. Flemings can run, work the post and rebound. You’ll feel her presence when she’s on the court.”
As for transfers, 6-foot-3 forward/guard Mya Davidson from Rockford, Illinois, will bring over a lot of experience as she played significant minutes as a freshman at her previous school.
Also coming in for the Lady Raiders is Sydnei Marshall, Alexiai Weaver, Kiera Neal, Kamille Brown, Bramiya Johnson, Laylah Reese and Kaleigh Thompson.
Wiggs said he believes the team has gotten much longer and more talented and is looking forward to a fun year.
Returning for the Lady Raiders is guard Amiya Johnson, who started off playing little in the first couple of games last season but earned her way into the rotation by going off the bench and into the starting lineup. Johnson earned her All-Region and All-Conference.
Also returning is guard Da’Kariya Jackson. Jackson finished last season All-Region and All-Conference despite the earlier injuries. Wiggs said Jackson is one of those players that will do whatever is needed to win, and he’s happy to have her back.
Finally is guard Marihya Hart. Hart played in 26 games for the Lady Raiders, averaging 17 minutes on the floor. Wiggs believes Hart’s productivity on the court will increase if she continues the same work ethic that got her to this point.
“I’m really excited about the work she’s put in since the season has been over,” Wiggs said. “She’s worked hard playing off two feet and finishing through contact, and her skill-set and shot selection has also improved. I’m looking forward to these three stepping up and becoming leaders as the newcomers adjust.
“I’m really excited about this group. Every single one of these kids are winners and comes from winning programs, so they know those sacrifices to be great. We have the pieces to compete against some of the best, and I know this group will make each other better.”
The Lady Raiders will release their upcoming schedule at a later date.
D'Courtland Christian - Daily American Republic