At this point, the expectations for Homestead read off as if they are mundane accomplishments.
Compete for postseason championships.
Aim for a state title.
While the streak of five-straight SAC championships ended last season, the Spartans enter the 2021-22 season with the area’s best player and a load of complementary talent that will make Coach Rod Parker’s team a team to be reckoned with once again.
It begins with UConn commit Ayanna Patterson, who is ranked No. 4 nationally in the Class of 2022. The 6-foot-2 wing is a complete player on the court who can shoot, drive and finish around the hoop. She averaged over 22 points per game a season ago and is good for a double-double almost every game.
“Ayanna is one of the elite players in the state and country,” Parker said. “Her game continues to grow in all facets and she will provide the leadership needed for our team to reach our potential.
“Ayanna’s presence will continue to dominate on both ends of the court. A prolific scorer who has continued to expand her game on the perimeter.”
Fellow senior Maggie Keinsley will also command a big role. She averaged just a tick over seven points a contest a season ago and is a solid rebounder in the post to complement Patterson.
“Maggie is a great athlete and versatile basketball player,” Parker said. “She plays big in the post for her size and also has the ability to step out and make perimeter shots. She is a great defensive player who will provide great leadership on and off the court.”
With Grace Sullivan gone, primary point guard responsibilities will likely go to junior Molly Stock. While Patterson is the centerpiece, the offense must have competency at the one guard position if the Spartans are going to look the part of an upper-echelon squad.
“Molly is a very good shooter and has the ability to get to the rim and create shot opportunities for her teammates,” said Parker. “She is a hard-nosed defender who will become one of the top guards in the area.”
Fellow junior Alison Stephens will be in for a bigger role as the only other player outside of Patterson who returns after averaging double-digits in points at 10.4 a contest. Stephens is capable of being extremely streaky from range and her defense is expected to be some of the team’s best in man.
“Alison is a great shooter who has worked hard this off-season to improve her ability to score from all three levels,” Parker said. “Her defense has improved and she will continue to get better rebounding the basketball. Ali will be one of the top offensive performers in the area playing alongside Ayanna.”
Fellow juniors Evie Bottoms, Hilary Adams and Sydney Fream will also see their minutes rise as they fill roles left open by graduation. Yet by and large, this is a very young team with just two seniors in the normal rotation. Sophomores Emma Reust and Claire Landrigan will also see a substantial increase in their responsibilities.
The Spartans have what it takes at the top, especially with Patterson, to make another deep postseason run, but the bench depth will be a concern, at least in the first part of the season. Who can be counted on in the clutch and who is not yet ready for the varsity spotlight? That will be a storyline to watch for Parker as the season progresses.
With Ayanna Patterson, anything is possible with this team. That’s not to say this is a one-woman squad, but the UConn commit and five-star prospect is arguably the best wing in the country and she can do so many things well, not just for herself but for her teammates.
The supporting cast is largely unproven when it comes to filling major roles, but the talent is there to complement Patterson well.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Well, only one team is above the Spartans in our preseason countdown, so that’s nothing to sneeze at.
That said, the lack of experience and senior leadership is telling. Patterson and Keinsley will do a fine job, but there is a lot of underclassmen past them. How does this team handle adversity? Are they ready to compete against the top teams in the state?
Dec. 3 vs. Carroll
Yes, it’s relatively early in the season, but the team that knocked off Sparty twice last season pays a visit in early December.
This game not only will pit arguably the top two teams in the SAC against each other, it could be a teaser for a rematch in regional play like we saw a year ago.
Homestead wants nothing more than to return to form by knocking off its rival and set the tone for the year.
Molly Stock, junior
Stock doesn’t need to be a star player for the Spartans, she just needs to be able to direct the offense when those duties are thrust upon her. We are unsure what the rotation at point guard will look like, but the top-returning player in assists is Stock, so she will definitely get her moment at the one-guard.
Stock plays with a bit of a chip on her shoulder and is tough and tenacious on the defensive end. If that can translate offensively and give the Spartans a reliable guard in which to run the offense through, that’s huge for Parker’s team.