Typically a new coach enters a situation in which a program is in transition or in serious need of rebuilding.
That’s not the case for Coach Kevin Clopton, who takes over Northrop from Rashida Muhammad stepped down following four years at the helm of the Bruins, all of which saw the team win at least 13 games per season.
Add in the fact that Northrop returns six of its top seven scorers from a 15-win campaign, and Clopton couldn’t ask for a better position to be in.
“Excitement is not the word, I am definitely lucky,” said Clopton about the situation he is inheriting. “I couldn’t catch a better break. All I need to do is just be the captain of this ship.”
The on-court ship will be steered by senior TiAuna White, who averaged 17.7 points and 6.1 rebounds from a season ago. She will be joined by a pair of talented juniors in the backcourt – J’Asia Scott (8.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.5 apg) and Amanda Thatcher (6.4 ppg, 2 rpg, 1.4 apg) – who will direct the offense and are dangerous shooters while also adept at driving to the bucket.
The Bruins will also have a pair of seniors in Jasmine Perry and Kayla Warfield who were each solid in supporting roles last season, each averaging a couple points and rebounds per contest.
Junior Aniyah Moore (1.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg) is another wing who could see an expanded role.
“I am a very high-intensity kind of guy,” Clopton said. “I want us to get up and down the floor as quick as possible. With one of the most dynamic backcourts in the area, I think we can do that with some success.”
That may be where the Bruins look the most different from the Muhammad era. While Northrop did like to roll up tempo at times under its former coach, that aspect of the game will be much more prevalent under Clopton.
“We don’t have a true post, but even if I did, I try to make every girl a dribbler,” Clopton said. “We want our girls to be more than just one dimensional. The offensive scheme that I want to run has anyone capable of pushing the ball up the floor.”
A big loss will be Destiny Jackson, who has transferred to Snider. Jackson averaged a near double-double last year at 11.8 ppg and 9.4 rpg.
While Clopton’s lineup will be dominated by juniors and seniors, a trio of sophomores – guards Kamiyah Johnson and Alexa Robinson and wing Ava Khan – are promising youngsters who may see some spot duty off the bench.
Muhammad elevated Northrop into a lower-tier SAC program into the top three conversation. It is up to Clopton to take it the next step higher. South Side and Homestead have become the perennial top programs in the league. To reach the top of the ladder, Northrop will need to develop further and find a way to knock off the Spartans, who have beaten Northrop 17 straight times, and the Archers, winners of six straight against the Bruins.
“Homestead and South are great programs who have built themselves up,” Clopton said. “The best thing for us going forward as the biggest school in Fort Wayne Community Schools is to connect with our feeder programs and go to their games, let them know you want them to be here.
“It is important to me to have girls who come out and want to be part of us.”
With six of their top seven scorers back from a 15-win team, Northrop is poised to flirt with the 20-win mark in 2020-21. Coach Kevin Clopton brings in some new philosophies, but they are not drastically different from what Rashida Muhammad instilled in her team prior to her departure.
The lack of a true big may be an issue against some teams who are bigger in the post, but that can be offset with aggressiveness and physicality from the talented wing spots.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Ten of the Bruins’ 11 losses last year came by double-digits, including blowouts at the hands of South Side, Carroll, Concordia Lutheran and Homestead.
To take that next step in their development, the Bruins must close the gap with those other SAC teams.
Dec. 18 at South Side
As mentioned above, the Bruins have not beaten the Archers in the last six meetings. While Coach Clopton’s team has visions of competing for its first SAC championship this century, proving they can knock off the best in the league will be of paramount importance.
On the road at South Side is one of the biggest hurdles on the schedule. Right before the Christmas holiday, the Bruins can show they are for real with a dub over the Archers.
J’Asia Scott, junior
With no Destiny Jackson, TiAuna White will need someone else to help her on the boards to clean up misses around the bucket or to halt second chances for opponents.
Scott averaged nearly four rebounds a contest last year and is a scrappy guard who isn’t afraid to mix it up in the post. Can she be that complement to White?
PREVIOUSLY IN THE COUNTDOWN