LAUREN KIDDER is one of number of players with significant varsity experience back for the Kennett girls this winter. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
December 05, 2011NORTH CONWAY — Many years ago, when Rick Pitino was in the middle of his disastrous stint as coach of the Celtics, he was famous for noting that Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish were not walking through the door.
New Kennett girls' hoop coach Larry Meader can identify a bit with that scenario, as the Eagles will be moving on from one of the most successful eras in Kennett girls' basketball with the graduation of guards Allie Wagner and Melissa Frase.
The duo, both of whom were capable of sinking 30 points a night on a regular basis, controlled the offense under longtime coach Peter Ames, so this year, Meader is looking to get his girls out of the habit of always looking for Wagner or Frase.
"We're going to have to change our game a little and focus more on inside scoring and balanced scoring," Meader said. "Everybody's going to have to chip in."
While Wagner and Frase ran the show the past few seasons (while Meader's daughter Sam played a key role as well), the team's two inside presences got a lot of experience banging around with the big bodies of Division II.
That has set up Lauren White and Lauren Kidder to be ready to be more of a focus in the offensive scheme.
"Hopefully we'll get more from them in the post because we'll be relying on them more," Meader said. "They can just get the rebounds and go right back up."
The past few years, White and Kidder have been focused on rebounding, then kicking the ball to one of the guards on the perimeter. Meader has worked to break them of that habit this year.
The new coach worked with his kids over the summer and they are slowly coming away from that habit.
"They've come a long way, now they're looking to score when they get the ball," Meader said.
The two juniors will just be part of a solid front line that brings back experience and height to go against the best that Division Two has to offer.
While Kidder and White saw significant time both as freshmen and sophomores, the other two top returning forwards saw less time, but nonetheless hit the varsity court last season. Casey Blakely and Kaitlin Taylor both will be counted on to contribute bigger minutes, while Kendra Strong also returns for her senior year and will challenge for time in the frontcourt.
"We're going to have size, hopefully that's something we can take advantage of," Meader said.
Even the team's starting two guard, senior Jessie Wagner, brings a little size to the table and will be counted on to be an outside shooter.
Junior Jordan Murphy, who saw some time on the varsity last year with Frase injured early in the season, will get the reins to the squad as the team's point guard.
Meader admits that his backcourt is a bit inexperienced, but expects them to improve with more court time.
"They just need more playing time," he said. "It's tough getting time behind Melissa and Allie, but they'll get plenty of time this year."
Senior Maddie Graves also returns to the fold and will be looking for time in the backcourt along with senior Stephanie Loynd, who returns after a year's absence.
Junior Jordyn Moore and sophomore Kalin Samia will make the jump from the JV team to the varsity squad and freshmen Erin Milford, Amanda Nusbaum and Gwynn McGinley will be splitting time with JV and varsity.
While Meader is new to the head coaching job, he spent the last few years working as an assistant under Ames and said that some things won't change.
"We'll use a good amount of what we used in the past because it's what the players know," he said. "But we're going to tweak some stuff."
Meader said the Eagles will use a couple of different defenses and there will be the obvious shift in offense from outside to inside.
"I learned a lot working with Pete for three years and I'm going to use a lot of what he taught me," Meader added. "But we'll tweak it a little to take advantage of our experience."
The Eagles will open the season on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at home against Kingswood and will play four games before the holiday break. The team will again head to Farmington for the holiday tournament.
"I can't wait for opening night," Meader said. "It should be fun."
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at email@example.com or 569-3126