Lady Olympian expectations 'guarded'
Bob Ford/TIMES NEWS Jim Thorpe girls basketball team members for the 2010-11 season include, front from left, Chasity Mosteller, Celeste Robinson, Brittany Holland, Alexandria Ventrella, Chelsea Smelas; back, manager Kayley Kovac, Catherine Condly, Jeanna McElmoyle, Nina Batts, Kristin Lawrence and manager Payton Kovac.
The Jim Thorpe girls basketball team is not lacking for small, quick players.
With that in mind, it's rather fitting what the Olympians expectations are this season.
"We're very small," said head coach Rob Kovac. "We're really looking at playing four guards most of the time with only one post player. Our first couple kids off the bench are guards as well, so our expectations will be guarded ... literally."
Heading the list of those guards is junior Celeste Robinson, the team's leading scorer a year ago with a 12.6 points per game average.
"She's maybe as good a guard as I've ever had," said Kovac. "She's really become explosive. She gets to the basket regularly now plus she's added a jump shot. She's probably worked as hard and improved as much as anybody in the program. When your best player is one of your most improved players that speaks volumes."
Chelsea Smelas also means volumes to Thorpe's chances this season. The 5-7 junior is that post player Kovac mentioned. Though she gives away inches in the paint, she makes up for it in other ways.
"Chels was our second-leading scorer (averaging 10.1 ppg) and has been an absolute monster early on," said Kovac. "She's quick and physical and has added the ability to finish with her left hand. She's undersized but plays hard. With Celeste, we should have a good 1-2 punch."
While many focus on scoring, Kovac really believes the key to the team's success comes after the two scorers.
All-around contributions from the rest of the team and the players' willingness to do whatever it takes can mean the difference between a sub-par squad and a contender.
"We have to do a lot of unconventional things because of our lack of size," said Kovac, whose club was 9-13 last season. "Because of that, getting used to playing without the basketball and kids accepting their roles are important.
"That's probably the No. 1 thing accepting roles. We have to have kids who are willing to defer to the scorers and say I'm going to worry about playing defense and getting the ball up the floor. If we're willing to do those sorts of things there are components here to be a good basketball team."
Completing the starting lineup will be guards Brittany Holland, Kristin Lawrence and either Nina Batts or Jeanna McElmoyle.
Holland is the team's only senior and will be looked to for leadership. Lawrence, a junior, is a solid shooter and is described as a smart, heady player. Batts provides speed and will spearhead the Olympians pressing defense, whole McElmoyle is a steady player who can fill many roles.
Juniors Chasity Mosteller and Alexandria Ventrella should also see time, while the rest of the squad includes freshmen Catherine Condly and Alissa Rusbarsky.
"We like where we're at right now," said Kovac. "We're trying to curb our enthusiasm. We want our expectations to be realistic but we feel the postseason is an obtainable goal. At the end of the season if we can say we were the best girls team at Jim Thorpe, that would say a lot."