By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The Keith Cox Era began at Tipton-Rosemark Academy last year with marked improvement for the Lady Rebel program.
Part of the success from the 2014-15 season featured key seniors like Bethany Berger and young players like Lauren Moody, Rachel Whitley and Mollie Word.
But all the seniors and those underclassmen will not be on the 2015-16 roster for Cox.
“Honestly, it’s like a new team again this year,” he said. “Obviously, we graduated two seniors who were starters. We graduated our point guard who vital to us. Bethany was a part of a lot of what we did.
“We’ve also lost a bunch of other players we didn’t expect to — a few transfers,” Cox continued. “By now, everyone knows about Lauren Moody’s situation. That goes far beyond basketball. At the same time it’s a crucial lost to our basketball team. She was coming along especially during the second half of last year.”
Moody is battling cancer with the support of her family, friends, teammates and school. Word was one of the transfers going to Bartlett and earning a roster spot for the Lady Panthers. And Whitley will enter her sophomore year focusing on softball as a standout pitcher.
“We’re going to be a young team just like we were last year,” Cox noted. “This year we’ve only got three upperclassmen. We have three seniors, Ally Naifeh, Taylor Beasley and Brooke Bridges. Those three seniors we have, had a lot of experience. We will rely on them a lot. Those three have been really good and great leaders so far.”
The 2015-16 Lady Rebel roster has no juniors. But the underclassmen list features sophomores Brittany Hall, Emily Fisher and Kallie Alexander. Then Cox added freshmen Emily West, Neely Turner and Autumn Payne.
The rest of the roster is composed of eighth graders Abby West and Megan Sanfratello.
“Our three sophomores saw the floor a little last year,” Cox said. “But we’ll be relying on them more this year.”
Cox said the middle school program’s future is so bright that moving up a pair of eighth graders won’t stomp it’s progress.
And he plans on continuing to make progress on the varsity level with this 2015-16 Lady Rebels.
“I don’t plan on losing any ground,” he said. “Last year we made up a lot of ground in the district like beating St. George’s for the first time in program history. We got a good win over Rossville last year at their place. We were right there with Fayette both times. We got up toward the top half of the district.
“So I think this team is definitely good enough to compete and be right there,” Cox added. “We can continue to make progress moving forward.”
Moving forward in November, Cox will continue to build cohesion within the Lady Rebels.
“When we start practice on Monday, we went over team rules and expectations because half of the team wasn’t here last year,” he said. “We have 11 players and half are either eighth graders or freshmen. It’s like starting all over again like we did last year. Those three seniors have been very helping in getting the younger girls to understand.
“I feel like we have a little better shooters out there with Brooke, Taylor and eighth grader Megan Sanfratello,” Cox concluded. “She’s a really good shooter as well that will help stretch out the defense.”