The story entering the season for South Side isn’t necessarily who is on the roster for the Archers, but rather who isn’t.
For starters, four-year starter Jaci Jones has moved on, as well as Alaya Chapman. The two combined to average 25.2 points per game a season ago, nearly half of what the Archers averaged per contest.
“We are already missing the leadership that Jaci had for us all four years, especially the behind-the-scenes stuff,” South Side coach Juanita Goodewell said. “In Alaya, she was such a polished kid on the inside and someone who was able to play inside and out.”
But not only is South missing players, it is also missing a key coach. Lead assistant David Goodwell, Juanita’s husband and main venting option on the bench, is now the head girls’ basketball coach at Churubusco.
“It hasn’t yet hit me that he is gone, but I am sure it will that first time I turn to ask him a question next to me on the sideline,” Goodwell said. “We are going to miss him, but we made a few new hires to the coaching staff that make us nearly an all-female staff, so that is cool.”
Despite the noticeable absences, the Archers are still aiming high after a 16-win campaign last season. Thrust into the spotlight even more will be junior Olivia Smith. The guard played more of the point role a year ago and quickly became a floor leader. The talent with Smith has always been obvious, but her command of an offense truly shined last season, as she finished with 3.1 assists and three steals per game to go with an average of 13 points.
With another year of development, particularly over the summer, Smith should be even better as a junior.
“Olivia is an ignitor, she energizes others around her and pushes everyone to want a little more,” Goodwell said. “What she did over the summer was really get more under control. Last year she played with passion, but sometimes without thinking. It was all emotion.
“What I saw other the summer was her really focusing in and making better decisions, giving her a really more polished game.”
Elsewhere, a five-member senior class will be leaned upon to step up and lead both in the locker room and on the scoreboard. Lamyia Woodson returns with the gaudiest numbers, having averaged 6.5 points and 7.8 rebounds last season. Woodson is a tireless worker in the post, but with Chapman gone, it will bring defenses into line to key in on her close to the bucket.
South has two other seniors who are potential candidates to bang in the post if need be – Cassidy Connelley (2.6 points, 1.4 rebounds) and Shay Peterson (4.1 pts, 2.6 rebs). With Covid, Goodwell has not had the pre-season time needed to truly identify where these girls fit in, but they will be relied upon to play bigger roles.
Senior Jas Combs averaged 3.2 points per game and may be the player set to provide the biggest boost in the backcourt off the ball from Smith.
The addition of senior CC Calloway will be a tremendous boost. A versatile player who can shoot from the outside, take a defender off the dribble and get to the basket will open up opportunities inside and out for the Archers. The transfer averaged 7 points and 2.8 rebounds as a junior, but missed a lot of the season at Concordia.
“The one thing I appreciate about CC is that she is one of those senior leaders who is already comfortable being vocal and pushing this team even though she is new,” Goodwell said. “That is what is valuable right now, but we see her as being a tandem with Olivi, like Jaci was last year (in the backcourt).”
Sophomore Justice Billingsley will see some action off of the bench after getting some playing time as a freshman, including coming up big at times in last year’s sectional championship game. Goodwell will also roster a pair of freshmen – Annika and Zi’ayrah Davis, no relation – both of whom have some promise.
However, with no JV or freshman teams at South Side this season, Goodwell is having to carry some players on the varsity that might benefit more from getting valuable experience playing with lower teams. But it is something that Goodwell is going to make the best of.
“They are going to have to grow up a lot faster than they would have wanted,” said Goodwell about her youngsters. “With our tough schedule, they are going to have to grow up a lot faster than usual.”
South Side may have lost two of its more prolific scorers from a season ago, but there is talent inside and out in Woodson and Smith. If the complementary pieces can come together as girls step into greater roles, the Archers should not miss a beat.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Even with the addition of Calloway, the senior class outside of Woodson has not had to lead the way in terms of scoring. The leadership is there, but are they capable of carrying this team on the offensive end?
Goodwell also does not have the benefit of depth in the program. With Covid and quarantine a real possibility for every team this winter, the loss of a couple players could mean cancellation, not just postponement, of games.
Jan. 8 at Homestead
The Archers had the Spartans on the ropes a season ago in sectional play, but were not able to put their SAC arch nemesis away and fell by three in overtime.
While South is looking to a few players to step up in bigger roles, so are the Spartans.
Could this game decide the conference title? It often does.
CC Calloway, senior
The transfer from Concordia Lutheran can do a little bit of everything, a true versatile player who can score, pass, rebound and play good defense.
Calloway has already acclimated herself well to her teammates and is leading by example and with her words. She will make just as big of an impact on the floor as the Archers look for new offensive threats to emerge.
PREVIOUSLY IN THE COUNTDOWN