Photo by Bill Roseberry
Pictured is the '15-16 Alton girls' basketball team. In front from left to right are: Katie Kercher, Diarra Smith, Ayonna Clanton, LaJarvia Brown, Jayla Fox-Wallace and A'llurah Bowens. In back from left to right are: Ashlyn Green, Grace Sholar, Kenya Burnett, Deija Carter, Leilani Hill and Cri-Shonna Hickman. Not pictured are Jewel Wagner and Chayvon Buckingham.
Head coach Bob Rickman is back for his third season at the helm of the Alton Redbirds in '15-16.
After a quality 15-13 campaign in '13-14, the Birds took a step backward last season, finishing 5-22.
An unexpected ACL injury to senior Jordann Wilson and Jasmine Bishop transferring to Edwardsville changed the landscape of Alton last season.
It gave LaJarvia Brown (14.7 ppg.) and Jewel Wagner (8.1 ppg.) a chance to really step up as juniors. Both were all-Southwestern Conference picks last season and Rickman hopes AHS can get back on track this year.
“One of the things you look at going into this season, when you can return a first-team all-conference player (Brown) and a second-team all-conference player (Wagner) and then you can return three more players that played considerable minutes it's a good thing to have,” Rickman said. “What makes it tough is when you look across the conference and you've got an Edwardsville that returns basically everyone and O'Fallon who returns almost everyone, you see yourself behind them and you've got a lot of ground to make up.
“We've got five returning players with experience, then the next two have minimal experience and after that we've got a couple sophomores and six freshmen.”
Joining Brown (5-foot-3) and Wagner (5-10) in the starting lineup will be: senior Chayvon Buckingham (5-8), juniors Kenya Burnett (5-7) and Ayonna Clanton (5-2).
Sophomores Katie Kercher (5-3), Grace Sholar (5-6) and Diarra Smith (5-4) will log minutes along with the six freshmen. Freshman Cri'Shonna Hickman scored two points in Alton's opener on Monday.
The Redbirds are currently playing in their Tip-Off Classic. They lost to Mater Dei 40-28 in their opener. They are back in action at 7:30 p.m. tonight against Springfield Lanphier and then play at a time to be determined on Saturday to wrap up the tournament. Alton opens SWC play vs. Belleville East on Dec. 1.
The big change to the schedule is the addition of the Lady Redbird Alton Atrium Hotel Shootout on Jan. 16. The Redbirds will play Jennings in the shootout. Rickman is excited to bring the showcase to AHS, which will include many high quality programs, including Civic Memorial locally.
“One of the things I looked at is when I was at Incarnate Word (assistant coach), they had a shootout in North County that was run by one of those event promoters and it was good with some of the teams that came in and the college coaches that came in,” Rickman said. “I wanted to start out with four or five games on that Saturday and work with the Convention and Visitors Bureau, I got Atrium Hotels on board, they're providing rooms for our teams from Memphis and Colorado. That helps us attract those teams. We've got some good matchups.”
Rickman hopes the shootout will become a staple in the Alton community and as the AHS program is building numbers and heading in the right direction, he hopes the Redbirds will become a top-notch program in the shootout and the area.
“We're heading in the right direction,” Rickman said. “We've got good youth players down at the sixth, seventh and eighth grade levels and they'll keep filtering through to support this freshmen group so things look good. We will only lose three seniors this year so we're going to have hopefully 18 to 22 girls return next year and then you add about another 10 on top of that and then you've got about 30 girls in the program. For a school our size fielding freshmen, JV and varsity teams that's a good number to be at.”
But before the future comes to fruition, the Redbirds have to compete in the present and Rickman hopes the current group of young girls can progress and spell the experienced varsity players.
“Our biggest question mark is going to be depth,” he said. “Who are we going to have to come in when LaJarvia needs a break, when Jewel needs a break, when Kenya needs a break. Can any of those (young) girls step up? That's going to be the key thing.”
NAME HT POS
LaJarvia Brown 5-3 G
Chayvon Buckingham 5-8 F
Jewel Wagner 5-10 F
Kenya Burnett 5-7 G
Ayonna Clanton 5-2 G
Katie Kercher 5-3 G
Grace Sholar 5-6 G
Diarra Smith 5-4 G
A'llurah Bowens 5-3 G
Deija Carter 5-10 F
Ashlyn Green 5-6 G
Cri'Shonna Hickman 5-5 G
Leilani Hill 5-8 F
Jayla Fox-Wallace 5-3 G