For head coach Dan Lumpkin, as he enters his 17th season as the Lady Cougars leader, the task at hand will be to mold the wealth of talent into a finely tuned machine in order to make a run in the Region VII Conference Tournament in March.
“We have shown signs of being a good team in our preseason scrimmages, but we still have a long way to go,” the coach stated. “We are excited about the players we have coming in this year and the four returning players. I think we have a good blend of inside and outside shooters, but we’ll see how it unfolds.”
The Lady Cougars will have three returning players from the team that finished with an 18-10 mark last season and another who sat out last year with an injury: Jara Gasper, Carley Fetzer and Tre’Ketta Bonds, along with Brittany Ramsey who returns for her sophomore campaign after missing last year will be the familiar faces on the bench.
Freshmen Aysia Grimsley and Katrice Harris from Marietta, Ga., and Atlanta, respectively, will handle the bulk of the point guard duties while Gasper will return to start at the two guard. Former Bradley Central Bearette, Brandi Whitted will most likely start at the wing as the local sharpshooter will move her long-range shooting ability across town. Kaitlyn Davis (from Big Rock), Nataya Roller (Fulton High in Knoxville), and Krista King from White County High will also see considerable time at the guard and wing positions and can all shoot from the 3-point line.
“We have a lot of depth in the backcourt which will help when we get into the heart of our conference schedule,” stated Lumpkin. “We have a lot of quickness and girls that can play up-tempo and get out and run the break and press on defense.”
Ramsey will anchor the paint for the Lady Cougars as the Sophomore from Loudon returns from injury after a sterling freshman campaign. Freshman Whitney Thompson from Rhea County and Jasmin Fuqua from Clinton will add to the mix of veterans and newbies.
A 5-foot-10 sophomore transfer from Atlanta, Markiesha Campbell, as well as Jamesha Mosley (Hopkinsville, Ky.), and returnees Fetzer and Bonds, will all see time in the paint, as Lumpkin searches for the right combination. Fetzer is on the mend with an ankle injury while Bonds is coming back from a knee injury.
“We have some height in the middle and some depth,” explained Lumpkin. “Brittany is just a good, all-around player. She can play inside, she can shoot it from outside, she has experience, she hustles and usually comes up with the loose ball. She is still recovering from the hand injury, but she plays through the pain and she will be a key for us this year. We really need Carley Fetzer and Bonds to get healthy, because we will really need their height and rebounding in the paint.”
The coach sees the usual suspects as the teams to beat in conference play. Perennial power Walters State is, as always, the starting point, while Volunteer State, Chattanooga State, Southwest Tennessee, Dyersburg State and Cleveland State are all trying to close the gap.
“We are looking for our returning players to step into the leadership role,” the coach concluded. “We have a good blend of girls and we need them to continue to develop and work hard, and see what it takes to play at this level. The league will be as tough as ever, but we are looking forward to the possibilities.”