In her four seasons at the helm of Northrop girls’ basketball, Coach Rashida Muhammad succeeded in bringing the program back to relevance.
It is new coach Katie Jackson’s job to push the Bruins to another level.
Following a one-year break from a former female area basketball standout on the sideline, Jackson takes over Northrop with an eye towards SAC and postseason relevancy, something that Muhammad was able to bring to the orange and brown for the first time in nearly a decade.
With some veteran talent and promising newcomers, Northrop looks the part of a program on the rise.
With Jackson comes her twin daughters – Saniya (9.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Nevaeh (8.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg) Jackson. Both played pivotal roles in Carroll’s run to semistate last season and now come to Northrop as seasoned juniors. They are long guards who can shoot from the perimeter but also are adept closer to the bucket.
“(Saniya) is a fierce competitive and hungry to return following ACL surgery,” Coach Jackson said. “I look for her to pick right back up where she left off. She is the purest natural scorer we have on our team.”
“(Nevaeh) used an AAU season to develop into our most complete player,” said Coach Jackson. “She can score, defend, rebound and pass. She is naturally deceptive for her length and size.”
The twins join an already-seasoned group headlined by seniors Amanda Thatcher (7.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and J’Asia Scott (9.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.1 apg). Both are guards who can handle the basketball and score in buckets or make the extra pass to get an easier shot.
Thatcher will serve as the team’s point guard.
“Amanda is the quarterback of our team and its primary ball handler,” Coach Jackson said. “She is embracing her role as the ‘mother’ of our team. She holds us all together, on and off the court. Her court sense, ability to score and pass make her a triple threat.”
Meanwhile, Scott is a jack-of-all-trades type player. She can score in bunches, isn’t afraid to get dirty in the post and has exceptional court vision on both ends.
“J’Asia is the engine of this team,” Coach Jackson said. “She is the fastest player baseline to baseline in the area, a true mosquito on defense.
“She will be the safety in our full-court press and the heartbeat of our defense. She now has taken her game to another level by transitioning steals into points for herself or teammates.”
Also returning are a pair of juniors in guard Kamiyah Jackson and forward Alexa Robinson. Robinson could be a key cog as a player that is not afraid to mix things up down low.
The departure of the graduated Ti’Juana White should not be overlooked. The forward delivered a 17.1 points and 7 rebound per game stat line last season.
All told, Coach Jackson has a group that has played a lot of basketball together, although not at the high school level.
“It will be an exciting year with many new faces – four new coaches, the Jackson twins and the reunification of many girls who have played against or with each other in some capacity throughout their basketball careers,” Coach Jackson said. “With time, the transition will be an exciting one.”
And that just may be the biggest storyline to watch. How long does it take for the Bruins to start firing on all cylinders? A road date at Carroll on Nov. 19 throws Coach Jackson’s team into the deep end of the SAC straight away.
There is no doubt that the personnel is there, it is all about putting it together.
“Experience as a team and adjusting to a new staff could be a potential weakness,” Coach Jackson said.
With the addition of the Jackson twins to a team already having the likes of Amanda Thatcher and J’Asia Scott, Northrop immediately becomes one of the most talent-rich teams in the SAC. There is size, shooting prowess and overall athleticism in bunches for a team that took a step back last year with just nine victories.
If the complementary players develop and deliver, the Bruins will be a dangerous team in the league and in the postseason.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
While the majority of the team has played together at one time or another, it has been a minute since they have all competed together. That chemistry is not just born overnight and it could be something that develops over the course of the season.
A defense that allowed 54 points per game last season must also be better.
Dec. 17 vs. South Side
Believe it or not, Northrop has lost 18 straight games to its friends from the south side of town, dating back all the way to the 2004-05 season.
This game will be pivotal in the SAC, but it could also be a sign for Northrop if victorious that this is a new dawn of Bruin hoops.
It will take a month or so for this team to get accustomed to playing with each other at the varsity level, if not longer. But by mid-December, the Bruins should be rounding into form. What better way to put them to the test than against a rival who has owned them for over 15 years?
J’Asia Scott, senior
It would be easy to go with one of the twins, but we are going with Scott. This team had too many breakdowns on the defensive end last season. The Bruins allowed 70 or more points in five different games, all losses, including the 85-71 loss to Snider in sectional action.
Scott is a firecracker, truly one to run around and make plays all over the court defensively. That energy can be infectious and may be the catalyst that sees this team take tremendous strides on that end of the court this season.