Lady Cardinals taking new angle this season


By Chris McCarthy/ Publisher/Editor

There’s a new look to Gadsden State women’s basketball team.

The 2013-14 Lady Cardinals feature a triangle offense that is tops in the Alabama Community College Conference in scoring at 78.7 points per game.

“We evaluated what we recruited and what was best for who we had,” said head coach Butts. “The bi-ggest thing you need (for the triangle offense] is a good post player, and we have two of them in (sophomore) Calisha Parker and (freshman) Carla Clemmons. We also have a great forward in (sophomore) Taylor Adams and a great point guard in (sophomore) Lacey Buchanon, so we knew we had the pieces to the puzzle for that type of offense. 

“Also, with (freshman) Collette (Onenda) going down with a knee injury at the start of the season, we knew that we wouldn’t be as strong at the off-guard position.”

The switch has reaped dividends, as Gadsden State is first in the ACCC in field goal percentage. 

A stingy defense also shares a lot of credit for the team’s current 19-4 record, as Gadsden State first in defensive field goal percentage. 

For the first time in his collegiate and high school coaching career, Butts shelved his full-court pressure defense in favor of a halfcourt man-to-man. 

“It’s a big change for me,” he said. “Even when coached middle school, I can’t remember a time where we didn’t press full-court man. But with this bunch, we felt that quality possessions were better than quantity. In the four games that we’ve lost, we’ve struggled in rebounding and had poor shot selection.” 

On the subject of rebounds, Butts puts a premium on board work. 

“Just to let them know it’s a priority, the first drill we do every practice is a rebounding drill. If you lose rebounds on the offensive end, it can really put you in a hole, especially when you’re on the road.

“We usually don’t get beat by 10 points; we get beat by 25, because we abandon our game plan when we start pressing and chucking up 3’s when we normally throw it inside. Like in our loss against Wallace-Hanceville [on Jan. 16], we were trying to re-invent the wheel when things were getting away from us.” 

Another reason for dropping the press was that it did not play to Buchanon’s strengths. 

“We wanted to play La-cey a lot of minutes and knew that that we couldn’t do that if we were pressing,” said Butts. “Lacey’s got the best mid-range jump shoot of any player I’ve ever coached. She can drop 30 points on some really good teams. 

A former Class 4A All-State player from Jacksonville High, Buchanon is first in the conference in both scoring (17.8 average) and assists (5.8). She is also fourth in assist/turnover ratio; fifth in steals (2.4) and sixth in field goal percentage (73.2). She was named to both the ACCC All-Region 22 and North Division first teams last year and signed with Troy in November.

A Section High graduate, Adams leads the ACCC in rebounds (12.8) and field goal percentage (60.4 percent) and is averaging 12.5 points and 2.0 blocks per game. Adams, who made the 2012-13 All-Region 22 and North Division second teams, will continue her basketball career this fall at Shorter University in Rome, Ga. She chose the Hawks over offers from Jacksonville State and Troy.

“According to the coaches they signed with, they’ll be two of the better players in their respective conferences,” said Butts. 

Buchanon enjoys directing the new offense that Butts installed this season. 

“It’s based off a bunch of reads, so there’s a lot more movement with the ball. It’s more a halfcourt offense that the one we ran last year.” 

“The sophomores and freshmen really get along well,” Adams added. “I think that makes us play better.” 

Freshman guard Taylor Frazier is averaging 13.6 points and is sixth in ACCC in 3-point field goal percentage (37.1) and fourth in free throw percentage (73.5). 

Parker and Clemmons are averaging 8.8 and 8.4 points, respectively. Parker has received offers from Birmingham Southern and Southern Arkansas. 

Butts said that the team’s other sophomore, Hokes Bluff native Savannah Harper, could play at a four-year school but chose to end her competitive basketball career at the JUCO level.

“Savannah told me that she just wants to be a student. She feels like if she goes and play somewhere else, it wouldn’t be like here and at Hokes Bluff. I tell our incoming freshman that if they work hard enough and stay two years, they’ll have an opportunity to play at the next level. Since I’ve been here, every player who has wanted to play at the next level has done so.”

Butts pointed out the unusual way the leadership roles have shaken out this season.

“Our sophomores are all quite leaders who lead by example. Our freshmen follow their lead but are very vocal. That doesn’t happen a lot at this level, but for some reason, it’s working for this team.”

Butts’ players contribute to the program off the court in the way they call potential teammates early in the recruiting process to inform them on the benefits of both the GSCC campus and the surrounding area.

“These kids are the best recruiting tool we have,” said Butts. “There’s a reason why were consistently getting players we shouldn’t, and it’s all because our kids sell the concept of family. To be able to give that to a kid coming into the program is a great thing.”

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