HANCEVILLE, ALA. – With three returning starters and eight sophomores, Wallace State's women's basketball team expects to be fast, athletic and feature a deep roster during the 2017-2018 season.
The Lady Lions' new season gets cranked up Saturday as they travel to Columbia State for the opener.
"We have strong sophomore experience and that's shown in our preseason scrimmages. We have quality depth up and down the bench, and that's something we've lacked the last couple of years," said Wallace State interim coach Jessica McBrayer. "When you add our freshman class, I think you're looking at an exciting team to coach and watch play."
Sophomores Joy Sadler, Gabby Hill and Karlie Hudson return to the starting lineup for Wallace State, which finished with a 22-10 record last season, surpassing the 20-win plateau for the fifth time in six seasons. The Lady Lions advanced to the Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) tournament semifinals.
Sadler, a Gardendale native, was a 2nd-team ACCC All-North Division selection for Wallace State last season after posting averages of 8.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
Hill, a 5-foot-6 guard from Hewitt-Trussville, averaged 5.7 points per game and dished out 60 assists.
Hudson, a Tennessee native, was one of Wallace State's top 3-point threats as a freshman and led the team with 111 assists.
"Those three have tons of game experience. They experienced the ups and downs last season and hardly came off the floor," McBrayer said.
McBrayer expects sophomore Sydney Powell to step into a starting role after serving as a role player last season. Powell is a 5-foot-3 guard from Ramsay.
Sophomores Marquise Cobbs and Alexis Osteen should also provide significant minutes for Wallace State along with Ahziala Wright, who is back after suffering a season-ending knee injury last season, and transfer Tykeah Rogers.
"Our sophomores who didn't play a lot last year have put in an enormous amount of work in the offseason and it's paid off. They're suddenly earning bigger roles on this team," McBrayer said. "I believe we've got eight sophomores who are all going to be big for us."
Highlighting the freshman class is Channing Gafford, an All-State performer out of Lauderdale County High School.
"Channing Gafford has come here and practiced like a sophomore and has the basketball IQ of a sophomore. She's an intelligent player, and I think that will help her have a big year for us," McBrayer said.
Locust Fork product Madison Caters and Jada Golden, out of Fairview, should provide freshman depth in the backcourt.
DeMaurea Moore (Hillcrest) and Desiree Tyner (Loachapoka) are expected to play pivotal roles at the forward position.
"Our freshmen may not bring experience right away at the college level, but they bring the ability to win ballgames. All of our freshmen know how to win after coming from championship-caliber high schools," McBrayer said.
Presley Higdon (Pisgah) and Miajah Bullock (Anniston) round out the freshman class.
Wallace State was recently picked to finish third overall in the conference, according to the league coaches.
Wallace State's first home game is Saturday, Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. The Lady Lions' conference opener is Jan. 9 at Gadsden State.
"I expect us to be a contender in the end. I'm excited about our defense and rebounding. It's not something we've been known for in years past, but it's something we're thriving at during the scrimmages," McBrayer said. "We're also going to be fast. Our guards are super quick and run the floor fast. We want to move the ball as fast as we can and get back on defense. We're ready to go."