EATON — Coming off a 19-6 season, Eaton and coach Dave Honhart will contend with the loss of the Eagles’ leading scorer, Bailey Shepherd, their best defender, Ashley Earley, as well as a “high-energy leader” in Rilee Worley.
Fortunately for Eaton, the Eagles return four strong players with senior guard Kylee Kidwell, senior forward Alexis Miller, junior guard Allison Mowen and sophomore forward Olivia Baumann, and also have some exciting additions.
“There’s no replacing them, but I think it is important for each team to build its own identity and as coaches, we try to build around their strengths,” Honhart said. “We have a lot of talent on this team, and really good team chemistry. I expect we’ll be much more balanced in terms of scoring than we were last year. Our captains and seniors will provide strong leadership. Players are still figuring out where they fit with their teammates out on the floor, and we are still learning to love defense and physicality, but we’ll get there. It will be a fun team to coach.”
It begins with Mowen, who Honhart describes as Eaton’s “quarterback” on the court.
“This will be her third year in that role. She is an outstanding floor leader,” he said. “Last year she was First-Team All-SWBL and led the league in 3-point shooting percentage. This will be Allison’s first year as a captain.”
Miller, who is entering her second year as captain, has improved her game off the dribble, according to Honhart.
“She is a good rebounder and shot blocker,” he said. “Alexis is a good “Glue Girl” off the floor.”
Baumann started in about half of Eaton’s games last year as a freshman.
“She was our best rebounder and a force around the rim, both inside and outside,” Honhart said. “She is a mature presence. Low-maintenance, high production.”
Kidwell, who started more than half of Eaton’s games last year, is a strong defender and a good passer, according to Honhart.
“I’ll be looking for Kylee [Kidwell] to be a strong leader at the defensive end this year,” he said.
Senior guard Kylee Pitsinger also returns to the team after taking a year off from basketball.
“Kylee [Pitsinger] brings competitiveness, athleticism and the ability to create for herself and her teammates,” Honhart said. “She is a great passer and teammate and we’re glad to have her back.”
Honhart described sophomore guard Lily Shepherd as a talented guard with tons of potential.
“She loves the game, works hard at it in the off season and has really improved her ability to score around the rim,” he said. “She is improving her skills every day and I look for her to be a significant contributor this year through her passing, scoring and defense.”
Junior forward Julianne Couch did not play last year because of an injury, but Honhart said she was a fantastic teammate, and he expects her to be a significant contributor this season.
Junior guards Anna Kramer and Kyla Mize will also step up to varsity after two years on the JV team.
”Anna is a good shooter, defender and rebounder, who has significantly improved her ballhandling and playmaking ability over the off season,” Honhart said. “I expect she will be a significant contributor for us.”
He added that Mize was able to carve out a role as a ballhandler and defensive stopper on JV.
“She is a good leader and very versatile, which should help her to carve out a role this year,” he said.
Sophomore guard Kendall Miller will also make the jump to varsity this season.
“She brings competitive energy to everything that she does,” Honhart said. “She has worked hard this fall to improve her finishing and shooting skills, which should help her carve out a role this year.”
Freshman forward Gracie Copper and freshman guard Addy Satterfield may also see some varsity action this season.
With a talented group of returning players and some exciting new additions to Eaton’s team, Honhart said the Eagles expect to chase championships, though he did acknowledge the challenge in the SWBL this season.
“Bellbrook and Valley View have been at the top of the league for years,” he said. “Our games last year against Franklin and Monroe were down to the wire, 50-50 games. Oakwood and Brookville are well-coached and we played tough games against them last year. It should be a competitive race.”
Honhart added that he is lucky to be surrounded by great coaches.
“Maggie Neanen returns for her seventh year as head JV coach and my varsity assistant. This will be Doug Mize’s third year as a high school assistant. Tim Appledorn is our eighth grade coach, but also helps with high school when he can,” he said. “They play a big role in whatever success our team has. They are passionate teachers of the game, and even better people who work to make things fun for our players while challenging them on a daily basis. I am blessed to have such a great staff.”
The season is set to begin this weekend, though nobody knows what it could look like a week, a month or later into the season, so Honhart said they are treasuring every day they have together on the court and doing their best to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“2020-21 will undoubtedly be a unique season that will present a lot of challenges and unpredictability,” he said. “We’ll do our best to be flexible, versatile and handle whatever comes our way. We are just grateful to play and coach and we’ll try to make the most of whatever season we get.”
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles