By Tim Chambers
Miracles don’t happen overnight but fans can expect to see a complete change in girls’ basketball at Johnson County this season. Like Goober did Gilly Walker’s car, new head coach Leon Tolley has begun overhauling the Lady Longhorns from the ground up. He’s hoping to get their engine running smoothly in the years to come.
The team showed its spunk on Friday by knocking off David Crockett on the road in Tolley’s first game at the helm. It’s part of trying to change the image and perception that has plagued the program for years.
“Our team is eager to learn and eager to please and wants to do well,” said Tolley. “The biggest thing we have to do right now is change the perception of girls’ basketball here. We want to win and we want to compete and hopefully after Christmas we’ll be playing our best basketball. We’re not ready to play anybody right now, but we’re going to be learning on the job. This is something that will take some time and we’re not going to try and do the quick fix. We’re going to do it the right way and not put too much on the girls early on.”
Tolley’s aim is to make the Lady Longhorns competitive. He’s hoping that teams will dread coming to Mountain City to play unlike in past years.
”Teams have looked at us as an easy win in the past, but we’re hoping that all changes,” added Tolley. “We’ll have to do it with a young nucleus to start with. We’ll open up with three sophomores, one freshman and a senior in our lineup but we’ve got another freshman and two sophomores that I feel comfortable starting the game with at any time.”
Senior Courtney Brooks, sophomores Taylor Parsons, Adrian Hall and Abby Cornett and freshman Emmy Miller are slated to start at this point. Freshman Sadie Stout, sophomores Taylor Cox and Natalie Winters will push to make their way into the lineup but will definitely play a lot of minutes.
“We’re expecting Courtney to take care of the basketball, said Tolley. “Parsons, Hall, Cornett, Cox and Winters are all sophomores that we need to play like juniors. That class is the strength of our team right now but we also have confidence in Emmy and Sadie. It won’t happen overnight but we’re expecting good things from them. Those mentioned have a lot of athleticism and all of them can play. How we progress depends upon their maturity.”
Tolley expects Brittany Brooks and Kaitlyn Nichols to see action and contribute to the team. Britain Peele is a junior that could see some minutes.
“We’ll dress 12 players and all of them will probably play,” said Tolley. “But we’ve got around eight core players that will probably see the majority of action. We’ll put the ones on the floor that produce. It’s a wait and see thing.”
Tolley will be assisted by Gary Smith and Kechia Eller. Smith was Tolley’s assistant at Hampton for several years. Eller coached the middle school girls last year.
They are not the only changes fans will notice. The girls also have new uniforms to go along with their new style of play.
“We’re trying to change the culture as Coach Smith says,” added Tolley. “We want to get after it and do the minute waltz in 30 seconds. If you want to get down the road, then you have be athletic because you’ll play against good athletic teams. These girls have great attitudes and want to do well. We as coaches want to help them achieve that success. We’ll try and get it done over the long haul.”
17 – at David Crockett
(HOC), 6:30 p.m.
21 – Cloudland, 6:30 p.m.
27 – at W Wilkes, NC, 7:00 p.m.
28 – Unaka, 6:30 p.m.
1 – at Elizabethton, 6:30 p.m.
7 – Dobyns-Bennett, 6:30 p.m.
14 – at Unaka, 6:30 p.m.
15 – Unicoi County, 6:30 p.m.
21 – at Hampton, 6:30 p.m.
22 – West Wilkes, NC, 7:00 p.m.
2 – at Cloudland, 6:30 p.m.
5 – at Sullivan Central, 6:30 p.m.
9 – Happy Valley, 6:30 p.m.
12 – Sullivan East, 6:30 p.m.
16 – at Sullivan South, 6:30 p.m.
19 – Elizabethton, 6:30 p.m.
22 – at Dobyns-Bennett, 5:00pm
26 – at Unicoi County, 6:30 p.m.
30 – Sullivan Central, 6:30 p.m.
2 – at Happy Valley, 6:30 p.m.
3 – Hampton, 6:30 p.m.
6 – at Sullivan East, 6:30 p.m.
9 – Sullivan South, 6:30 p.m.
14-20 – District 1-AAA
Tournament at Elizabethton
23-28 – Region 1-AAA Tourney