Girls basketball: Greene back on the bench for South Charleston
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A familiar face returns to lead the South Charleston girls basketball program with hopes of taking the squad to typical territory in the State Tournament.
Gary Greene, after taking a medical leave of absence last season, rejoins the Black Eagles as its coach. South Charleston boasts a bevy of youthful talent this season and will look to help the team rebound following an 11-12 season under former coach John Testa after four consecutive State Tournament appearances (2009-2012), including two runner-up finishes, with Greene at the helm.
As with previous teams under Greene's direction, SC plans to make its name with defense.
"We've always been defensive-minded and I think even though we had some pretty good ballplayers for that four-year run, we also had players that played defense," he said. "There may have been a better offensive player on the bench, but we've always put a lot of emphasis on defense. Your jumper may be off one day or something else may be off, but there's no reason you can't play solid defense every night."
Junior Lina Villanueva and sophomore Taliah Cashwell, both guards, along with juniors Ary Mosley, a center, and forward Alexia Wade represent the team's returning core. Beyond that, Greene said of the program's top 12 players, he expects as many as eight to be freshmen.
"The nucleus of a little bit of experience is there, but a lot of it is going to fall on how young we are this year," he said. "As far as quality time, a lot of it is going to come from freshmen."
The abundance of youth will force the team's veteran players to take a greater role, particularly Villanueva and Cashwell, Greene said.
"Her skill level is improving every day practically," Greene said of Cashwell. "She's a good outside shooter, handles the ball well. She can play wing or point for us.
"She and Lina were both part-time starters last year. When they weren't there, they were obviously the first or second guards off the bench when they weren't starting. Both of them are similar type players, both Lina and Taliah."
Greene said he expects meaningful contributions from sophomore Zhakiya Brown, as well as freshmen cousins Aaliyah Dunham and ShyAnne Dunham and fellow freshmen Rhea Smith and Lucretia Landis, among others.
No matter the lineup, defense and speed will dominate the floor.
"I think we're going to be a running team," Greene said. "We've got some quickness. We're small, but we've got some quickness. Defensively, if we use our quickness wisely, we should be pretty good.
"We're going to push the ball up the floor, so we're going to try to be a fast-breaking team. We run a lot of motion sets out of the man and we should be able to have some decent size inside and out, so we should be balanced hopefully with our inside and outside game offensively."
With solid returning pieces and a stockpile of youthful talent, Greene said the team boasts potential, though it will need to gel and improve throughout the season to reach any postseason success.
"We're really going to have to progress skills wise and just like everybody else is going to tell you, we've just got to play better all the way through and just improve week by week, because we are inexperienced and small," he said. "We don't even drink Gatorade yet, they're still on Gerberade. They're young. It's the youngest team I've ever had and they're fun to practice with and they're going to get better."
SC opens the season at 7:30 p.m. on Dec 5 at Princeton.