When Jefferson High School takes the court this winter, it’s likely that three of the top seven Lady Dragons in the rotation will be freshmen or sophomores.
But the hope is they’ll be wise beyond their years after a near-40-game summer scrimmage slate.
“That’s one of the reasons we put so much stock into the summer,” said coach Jason Gibson.
Jefferson, 10-16 last year, is in the middle of a massive county-wide girls’ scrimmage tournament. Over 83 teams will play in nine gyms throughout Jackson County by week’s end. Jefferson, who will play 12 games in the event, is one of nine hosts.
“This is one of the largest camps in the state, and we get to stay at home,” said Gibson, whose team will play 12 games this week.
But that’s only part of the summer regimen.
Jefferson also took part in team camps in Pickens County and Hart County and even made an out-of-state trip to Ft. Walton Beach, Fla. for anther camp. When adding a 20-game spring league schedule, the Lady Dragons will have played 65 games in the offseason.
Not a problem for this group, Gibson said.
“They love basketball,” he said. “They want to be in the gym.”
Gibson, whose program has 13 freshmen or sophomores, said he’s already seeing glimpses of what could be this year from the squad’s younger players.
The freshmen tandem of Kellie Goza and Bailey Boyd, despite their youth, already bring a scorer’s mentality to their games. Meanwhile, sophomore Jakeia Wilson is the team’s lockdown defender. With an improved shot, opponents will have to respect her outside game, Gibson said.
But there’s also veteran leadership.
Though the playbook is scaled back in the summer, senior point guard Bethany Whitlock is getting the Lady Dragons into good scoring situations, Gibson said. Meanwhile, Gibson calls junior shooting guard Skylar Evanson the team’s most improved player from last year to this summer. Already a dangerous outside shooter, Evanson, who knocked down six three-pointers in a summer game against North Gwinnett, now shows an ability to drive to the basket.
Gibson also points to junior forward Rachel Goza, who won the team’s hustle award last year and is probably Jefferson’s best rebounder.
Though the true test will be in the winter, Gibson likes where his team is so far.
“I think this summer has been really good for us,” Gibson said. “I think we’re further ahead than we were last year.”