Ilea Shipp knows the expectation level for success this season at Waldron following a 24-2 season and the graduation of seven seniors.
No one knows better the players being elevated to the varsity level than Shipp, now the varsity coach, replacing Anthony Thomas, who resigned at the end of last season’s run to the Class A Final Four.
“From the moment we step up and work hard, we will exceed expectations,” said Shipp, who lost just five games last season as Waldron’s junior varsity coach. “We will be disciplined and work hard.”
Only one player with significant varsity experience from a team that won a program-record 24 games, county and conference titles as well as sectional and regional championships returned.
Now a senior, Josee Larrison takes over the leadership role for the Mohawks. She averaged 4.6 points and 4.3 rebounds as a junior.
“She definitely has to take the leading position,” said Shipp, who started coaching this year’s freshman class as fifth graders. Shipp is a 2006 Waldron graduate. “And she has already but we can’t put all the pressure on her. Others have to step up and help her.”
Waldron will have a balanced scoring approach this season with different leading scorers from game to game.
Larrison is one of three seniors along with Cendall Sheaffer and Madison Ping.
Alyssa Benson and Audrey Hogg are the two juniors. Sophomore Allison Hensley, Alivia Fischer and Riley Price will see varsity time this season along with freshmen Jackie Corlett and Emerson Lindsey.
“We will have a more balanced approach. Whoever is ‘on’ we will get the ball to them,” said Shipp. “We need to read the defense and do what is best for the team.”
Shipp’s varsity head coaching debut came Friday at Class A, No. 7 Blue River Valley. She didn’t anticipate being nervous. She was more in tune to seeing just what kind of team she had on the floor.
“We’ve been working so hard in practice,” she said Friday morning. “We’ve looked good. Now I want to see how it translates on the court at game speed and figure out what we need to work on.”
Blue River Valley got out to an 18-4 advantage after one quarter and led the entire way for a 49-28 victory. Waldron had 21 turnovers in the first half.
“We play a lot of ranked teams early on the schedule,” said Shipp. “We need to leave it all on the court. Then, when we get to unranked teams we can take care of business.”
While the nerves were evident in the season opener, Shipp expects the team to settle in and be loose.
“I don’t think they feel any pressure. They think the pressure is off them,” said Shipp. “It’s a young team with one returner. They feel good.”
And as Shipp stated, “They practiced every day last year against (the varsity).”
Shipp was correct about the tough early schedule. The Mohawks travel to Class A, No. 9 Tri tonight and host Class 4A Shelbyville and standout guard Kylee Edwards Tuesday. Edwards scored 45 points in the Golden Bears’ season-opening win over Brown County.
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