ABBY CASPER

A quick glance down the grade category on the roster for the Houston girls’ basketball team reveals the theme for this season. Beside 11 of the 14 names are 9s and 10s.

Needless to say, the Lady Tigers are incredibly young.

With four starters lost to graduation and the team’s leading returning scorer recovering from a knee injury, Houston will need contributions from several inexperienced players to compete in the 2013-’14 season.

“Early in the season, and maybe throughout the year, there are going to be some growing pains,” Lady Tigers coach Brent Kell said. “There will be some bumps in the road. There’s a lot of talent there. It just has to be developed.”

Houston will be a vastly different team than last year’s version that went 12-14 overall and 6-1 in the South Central Association. The Lady Tigers earned a share of the conference title following an offseason vote that forced Thayer to vacate its title for using an ineligible player.

Gone are four players –– Alexa Ichord, Amber Sillyman, Kenzie Scheets and Kayla Herndon –– who finished last season as starters. Ichord led the team in rebounding and blocked shots en route to all-conference honors. Sillyman ranked second in 3-pointers, assists and steals to also earn all-SCA recognition.

The lone returning starter is a good one. Junior Kylee Elmore averaged 14.8 points per game to lead HHS and rank third in the conference en route to unanimous first team all-SCA honors. She led the Lady Tigers in 3-pointers (29), assists (3.4) and steals (2.0).

Elmore is recovering from offseason knee injury after tearing her ACL in last year’s district opener. Kell said she is playing without restrictions at about 85 percent full strength.

“When you come off a knee injury, a lot of times you’re a little hesitant,” Kell said. “I can see that sometimes, then other days she goes all out. I think that will come with time because she is a competitor.”

Joining Elmore in the backcourt will be sophomore Shelby Cremer, who takes over the point guard duties from Sillyman, and freshman Abby Casper. Another freshman, Jaydin Ramsey, is a candidate to start.

Providing backcourt depth are senior Kaylea Preheim, sophomores Krista Scott and Monica Hunter and fresman Emily Shea.

Sophomore Sarah Kelley, who will miss Monday’s season opener for a minor heart operation that will sideline her 3-4 days, will start at center. She’ll be joined in the post by senior Sydney Cremer, who was a part-time starter last season.

Makayla Koch and Aylssa Hayes will back them up.

Kell said only game experience will determine which of his younger players are ready to play varsity minutes. The Lady Tigers have five sophomores and four freshmen.

“We’ve have good, competitive practices every day because we have kids fighting for positions,” Kell said. “I’ve made it clear that whoever shows they can do it will play. We’re going to play the best players.”

HHS hopes to capitalize on its athletic roster by pushing the ball offensively. The Lady Tigers will apply fullcourt pressure in three different looks after made baskets.

“We’re more athletic than we were last year,” Kell said. “These young kids have quite a bit of athletic ability.”

Kell said his young players looked timid at times during Friday’s jamboree in Willow Springs. It was a reminder that there may be highs and lows throughout the season with such an inexperienced group.

“Our young kids still have to adjust to the speed and pressure of the game,” he said.

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