By Stan Veitch/Sports Correspondent/The Messenger
It's going to be a season of firsts for Marty Dixon.
He's never coached girls basketball before and he's never coached at the junior college level until now.
"I've coached boys basketball and I've coached girls in different sports," the Gadsden State's first-year women's basketball coach said. "It's a little bit of a different thing coaching girls basketball. I just hope we pick up where they left off last year and go forward instead of backward."
Last season, the Cardinals finished 25-6 overall and 7-3 in Alabama Community College Conference play while making the semifinals of the ACCC Tournament.
Helping Dixon to go forward will be 11 sophomores, 10 of which played last year for John Butts – guard/forward Denise Newton from Hoover, guard Emily Murray from Paxton, Fla., guard Jessica Will-ingham from Cordova, guard/forward Austin Richardson from Robertsdale, center Morgan Jones, center Maya Jones and guard Kaelyn Irby from Cartersville, Ga., guard Jaide Walker from Woodland, center Casey Perot from Ruston, La., and guard Brittany Washington from Fort Walton, Fla.
Irby made the North Division first team and All-Region 22 second team last year.
The 11th sophomore, Marissa Dubose, is a 5-11 post player who transferred in from Paine College, a four-year school in Georgia.
"With that many back, they definitely know how to play together," said Dixon, a Gadsden resident and 1982 graduate of Sardis High School. "We've just got to get the few freshmen to mesh."
The four freshmen on the team are guard Tariah Reynolds from Childersburg, guard forward Keely Ellison from Hig-don, guard Hannah Evans from Hokes Bluff and guard/forward T.K. Blount from Gadsden City.
Dubose is one of four sophomore players from Cartersville, Ga.
"They didn't all play at the same school in Cartersville," Dixon said. "Some of them played together and some were rivals."
Having so many sophomores is proving to be a windfall for Dixon, who self-admittedly doesn't know all of the players abilities and their weaknesses.
"There are four or five of them who are stepping up to do what is needed," he said. "They kind of swap out on the leadership. If one [player] steps aside for any reason, there's another girl to take her place. They've been great, doing what is necessary for the moment."
The entire team was recruited by Butts, who is now the Albertville High girls coach.
"I have no complaints with any of the girls," Dixon said. "They've worked hard and done everything I've asked of them."
Dixon was hired in August, so he's still learning "the different styles of play of different people."
Pictured is Kaelyn Irby