HANCEVILLE – Get more athletic and extend the recruiting base of Wallace State’s women’s basketball program. Those were two primary offseason priorities for Lady Lions coach Ron Burdette.
As Wallace State plays its home opener Thursday, Burdette is confident he has laid the groundwork to cash in on both goals.
“We wanted to get more exposure for Wallace State basketball in other states, so we reached out in recruiting to Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi, and now we are already receiving interest from high school coaches about them sending more players our way in the future,” Burdette said. “That has been exciting, plus I feel we are a lot more athletic and quicker than we were last year. We should be able to run the floor extremely well this year and battle each game.”
After a long tenure as a Wallace State assistant, Burdette’s first campaign as the women’s head coach was no slouch. He was named the ACCC Coach of the Year after the Lady Lions went 22-9 and finished state runner-up last season.
“We had a successful season and felt like it was with smoke and mirrors. We had some injuries down the stretch. Our guards were hurt, and we didn’t have much post play, but we still made it to the state finals,” Burdette said. “I’m looking to build upon that and excited to see how fast we mature as a team.”
Danville product Ashley Nance is Wallace State’s lone returning starter after being named a 1st-team All-ACCC/Region 22 selection last season, when she averaged 12.2 points and 6.7 rebounds.
“Ashley (Nance) came in here last year and was an athlete from day one. She worked hard this offseason in the weight room and on the floor and has assumed a leadership role. It can be difficult because a leader can’t take a day off or have a bad one. I don’t know if you can flip a switch and be a leader, but Ashley’s working hard at it,” Burdette said. “She’s doing a good job so far. She’s getting on people when they need it, but at the same time cheering them on. A lot of schools are going to be calling me about Ashley Nance.”
Sophomores Presley Darling and Lauren Harris return in the post to complement Nance.
Burdette dipped into the Atlanta metro area during the offseason and signed three championship-tested freshman, all who should aid in making the Lady Lions a more athletic bunch. Guards DeAndrea Carter and Damia Andrews are both from Marietta, Ga., but played at different high schools, and forward Jasmine Coleman is from Southwest Dekalb High in Decatur, Ga.
“All three of the Georgia girls are more mentally tough right now because they’ve been on championship-caliber teams in their classifications and been exposed to a higher level of basketball than some of our other players,” Burdette said. “I’m excited about what each girl brings to the team.”
Jaylan Snowden, a 5-foot-8 guard from Mobile, may develop into Wallace State’s most versatile player.
“Jaylan is another Tacouya Allen except she may be a little more skilled from the outside. I can run her from point guard down to forward. We will lean on Jaylan heavily,” Burdette said.
Other newcomers from Alabama are Hope Benefield from Ider High, Hannah Sharp from Red Bay, Jorden Quick and Morgan Pitts from Cullman and Brandee Busenlehner from Locust Fork.
Rounding out the roster are Kelsie Montgomery from Belmont, Miss., Morgan Pearson from New Site, Miss. and Kendall Greene from Pulaski, Tenn.
Wallace State, less than two years removed from its sixth state title, will travel to tournaments in North Carolina in November and Tennessee in December before conference play commences in January.
“I have a lot of quality pieces to the puzzle sitting on the table and now have to put them together to see who fits. It’s going to be good for us to go play schools in states full of basketball tradition. We want to play tough competition night in and night out to prepare us for conference play,” Burdette said. “We want to be playing our best ball the first week of March like we did two years ago and expect to be cutting down the nets in our own gym in March (after the state tournament).”
For more information about Wallace State athletics, visit www.wallacestate.edu
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