Lady Eagles open season tonight at Buckhorn in All A Tournament
HYDEN – January 6, 2021 – ROD DAVIDSON
Coach Larry Sparks is currently in his second year as the head coach of the Leslie County Lady Eagles. Along with assistant coaches Cheryl Lewis and Hillary Moore, Coach Sparks looks to guide the Lady Eagles to another successful season.
Coach Sparks has coached alongside Hall of Fame coaches at the collegiate level at his alma mater, Berea College. As well as Buckhorn High School, Owsley County High School, and Leslie County High School finding success along the way in the form of district and regional championships, and a state runner up in the All A Classic.
I was able to catch up with Coach Sparks before the season opener and get his thoughts on the season and the 2021 Lady Eagles.
Question: How have you balanced preparing your team for the season, and keeping the coaches and players safe during a pandemic?
Coach Sparks: As a coaching staff we decided that we had to focus on what we can control. Our number 1 priority was to keep our kids healthy and get them in shape. We did a lot of our preseason work outside, full body weight workouts, led by Coach Hillary, and lots of running. When we went in the gym, we shot. We figured that if we were in shape and could shoot reasonably well, we could compete. During pauses we assigned our players to shoot free throws, run at home, and we also did strength workouts via zoom. Players would report their numbers and we would post in our group chat, always challenging them to improve. We also broke them into small groups, 3-4 players, bringing them in for 45-minute conditioning workouts. We divided our high school girls from our middle school girls in an effort to limit any exposure to the virus. We followed protocols, took temps, went thru questions, and cleaned and cleaned and cleaned, and preached and prayed some to.
Question: Losing a player like Lexy Meyers, who led the team in scoring 25.1 ppg and the second leading rebounder 7.1 rbs, from last years team is a huge loss. What is your plan to replace that production?
Coach Sparks: Lexy was a phenomenal offensive basketball player! And yes, also a really good rebounder. Our approach to replace her production will be through committee. I think I could see 5-6 players averaging double figures. Also, we have several players that could explode for big nights. Courtney Hoskins at the point guard, will really help to ensure that other players get good looks. She’s an experienced point guard who can score herself but also finds the open teammates. We should be quicker this season; I hope to get more offense in transition and off turnovers. Rebounding will be similar. We need to take a team approach to rebounding. Last year we were one of the top rebounding teams in the state. Baylee Davidson averaged right at 10 per game. If we can keep Emma Napier on the floor, she should be able to approach 9-10 rebounds per game.
Question: Highlight your front and back court, and what expectations do you have from this team?
Coach Sparks: We are a sophomore dominated team. We have 2 seniors Emily Bowling and Macy Fee, no juniors, 1 freshman, and a bunch of sophomores. So we are young, having said that, they are about as experienced as a group of this makeup can be. Emily Bowling is an experienced small forward. She averaged double figures last year. She was also a good rebounder and is extremely athletic. She has had to recover from an injury at the end of last season, but we expect her to be 100%. Iris Napier averaged 8 point per game last year and led our team in assists. She will move this year to her true position of shooting guard. Iris has really worked hard since last year and it shows. She is super-fast and is shooting the ball exceptionally well. Courtney Hoskins is going to be a great addition to our team. She was the leading scorer at Perry Central both her 8th grade and freshman years, but she is honestly a pass first point guard who finds the open teammate but can shoot or take the ball to the basket. She has fit right in with our kids and her presence has put our players in their most natural positions. We have several other guards that give us depth in the backcourt. Macy Fee, Caroline Buckle. Eden Melton, and Emily Roark. Each of these girls have improved their shooting and are good ball handlers. I expect contributions from them all. The front court is filled by all sophomores. Baylee Davidson is a returning starter at power forward. She flirted with averaging a double double last year and I really believe she will achieve that this year. Emma Mapier started last year at center and gives us a 6’1”, very strong presence in the middle. Emma stayed in foul trouble last year but still averaged 5 points and 5 rebounds per game. Emily Napier is a very versatile player who can really play, small forward, power forward, or center. She was our 6th man and averaged 5 points and 5 rebounds per game last season. Bailey Smith is one of the team’s hardest workers and best shooters. She is a stretch 4 and can also play small forward. Lyndsie Lewis is recovering from a torn ACL. She has made great progress and we expect her back soon. Lyndsie can play the power forward or center position. As far as team expectations, they are the same every year; win the All A, win the district, win the region.
Question: Other than two seniors, your team is comprised of all underclassmen, what accomplishments do expect to see from them over the next couple of seasons?
Coach Sparks: The future of Lady Eagles Basketball is bright. We’ve got young players who can play at every position. I think the next several years can be really exciting. Our goals are set high, having said that the region is the best it’s been in a while so we’ve got to keep working.
Question: Is there a player on your team that people outside the program may not know about, that could have a huge impact on this season?
Coach Sparks: Most are familiar with Iris, Courtney, Baylee, and Emily Bowling. I think that surprises will come from our other girls, Emma, Emily Napier, Bailey Smith, and I really think our reserve guards will surprise but it may be a different one each night.
The Lady Eagles will “flip” with Buckhorn tonight at 6:00. Good luck to the Coach Sparks and the Lady Eagles.