Jim Moore spent most of the first season at his alma mater telling Kaitlyn Root she was better than she believed she was. He hopes his second year in Houston his senior forward will believe it herself.
Moore said it’s no secret the 2017-’18 Lady Tigers will rely heavily on Root. She returns as the leading scorer from the district runners-up that lost a pair of all-conference guards to graduation.
“It’s her time,” Moore said of Root. “We know she has to have the ball in her hands. As a senior and the type of kid she is, she wants that.”
Houston will completely transition from a guard-first to forward-first team this season. Gone are guards Abby Casper and Jaydin Ramsey –– the team’s secondand third-leading scorers at point guard and shooting guard –– as well as part-time perimeter starters Stephani Crewse and Emily Shea.
That means the emphasis completely shifts to Root, who last season averaged a team-leading 11.8 points per game on 44-percent shooting to earn first team honors in the South Central Association. She also led HHS with 6.8 rebounds per game.
“She has the ability to make everyone around her better,” Moore said. “I tell her, ‘It’s not that you have to score all the points. But the ball has to go through you.’ She’s either going to the hole when she’s 1-on-1 or finding the open man when she is double teamed.”
Starting alongside Root will be junior forward Ally Morgan, a role player last year who steps into the starting lineup for departed senior Alyssa Hayes. Junior Kenzie Reber, the team’s tallest player, and Madison Curtis, who can also play a guard position, will provide frontcourt depth.
“Our post play is our strength,” Moore said. “Ally and Kaitlyn have both hit the weight room hard and worked on their moves. They are going to be a load for anyone.”
It’s a new-look backcourt for the Lady Tigers as senior Sevanna Rowland takes over the point guard duties. Fellow senior Carly Crawford is the starting shooting guard. Senior Chloe Hunninghake, a 3-point threat off the bench last season, will start at the other guard position.
Kelly Hubbs and Kennedy Campbell will provide backcourt depth off the bench. Two freshmen, Jaden Stell and Riley Scheets, will also compete for playing time.
“We want to play inside-out,” Moore said. “We can shoot it from the outside, but we’re a lot better when it comes from the inside and we’ve got our feet set. If teams want to pack the lane on us, I think they’ll be surprised how well we shoot it from outside.”
Moore said this year’s team isn’t as athletic as last season. But he expects rebounding and defense to be strengths. He also said his players have an advantage in their second season in his system.
“We get to spend more time improving our skills instead of teaching basic knowledge,” Moore said. “Whenever I ask them to get into a certain drill or do something on the floor, they know exactly what I’m talking about. I don’t have to spend 10 minutes explaining it to them.”
Moore said he has tangible goals for his team, which tips off the season at 2 p.m. Saturday against Fordland in the Cabool Shootout. Among them are earning seeds in the top half of every tournament, finishing in the top three of the conference and competing for a district title. The Lady Tigers have played in the district championship game in four straight seasons.
“We’re not there yet,” Moore said. “It’ll be a process. We have a lot of holes to fill and roles to learn.
“The potential is there. Now it’s time to go out and do it.”