NR girls’ coach optimistic about young team

Published 11:19 pm Friday, November 16, 2012

The Nansemond River varsity girls’ basketball team has talent but is facing a difficult road ahead with a roster full of mostly new faces.

The Lady Warriors went 13-10 last year overall, losing their first game in the Southeastern District tournament after finishing fourth in the district during the regular season. Losing that early in the tournament prevented them from qualifying for the regional competition, though they have qualified four out of the last six years that head coach R. Calvin Mason has led the team.

Last year’s team had five seniors, but only 11 players total. This year’s team includes only four players that played last year.

The 2012-13 Nansemond River varsity girls’ basketball team comes together during pre-season practice on Thursday evening at John Yeates Middle School.

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“Only two of them actually played a lot,” Mason said. “We’re a really young team. We’ve got (seven) freshman and sophomores on the team. We’re definitely talented, we’re just going to be very young; really inexperienced, especially coming off the bench. I don’t have any players that actually played a lot last year that’s going to come off the bench.”

When Mason states his expectations for the team, it is obvious that he is focused on what needs to be accomplished in the here and now.

“Improvement — that’s the word,” he said. “Like I tell the kids, I expect them to improve from practice to practice and game to game.”

Senior point guard Ashante Humphries is among the more experienced players on the team.

“She’ll be a fourth-year starter for me, started as a freshman at the point,” Mason said. “She’ll be one of my main players.”

Senior forward Sonnae Gibson will be a similarly important, experienced contributor for the Lady Warriors.

“This is her fourth year,” Mason said. “She’ll kind of hold it down inside.”

Mason also mentioned sophomore guard Laura Ortiz as a freshman who started last year.

“We could probably start two freshmen this year,” Mason said.

One of them will be guard Aneka Yelverton.

“She was the leading scorer on the (junior varsity team) last year,” Mason said.

Though they are very young, the pieces are there to build with, Mason explained.

“The other pieces, they came off a very good JV (team), but that was JV, and the difference between JV and varsity is just like going from high school to college,” he said.

The team has taken advantage of opportunities to play together during the off-season.

“We played fall league, we played summer league, and we gained some experience there, but it’s not like playing in the regular season,” Mason explained.

Still, he is optimistic and won’t call this a “rebuilding season.”

“We’re not going to make excuses,” he said. “If they’re not playing hard, then I haven’t done the job I’m supposed to do.”

The Lady Warriors host the season opener against Grassfield on Tuesday, Nov. 27.