Josh Thompson enters his first year as the head coach of the Lady Tornado basketball team with aspirations of taking the program to new heights as it enters its first year in a conference and second in NCAA Division II. Thompson comes to King from Nyack College (Division II) in Nyack, N.Y. after spending time with the Warriors as both a player and a coach. He played at Nyack from 1996 to 2000 and was co-captain of a team that won the Central Athletic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Tournament and led the Warriors to the NAIA National Tournament. He was named head coach of the Warriors in 2002 and steadily improved every year before ending his tenure at Nyack in 2009-10 with a 21-12 mark, a CACC Championship and the College's first-ever NCAA National Tournament bid. He was named CACC Women's Basketball Coach of the Year that year, as well.
Thompson brings one of his former players from that 2009-10 NCAA Tournament team. Shelly Yount will join Thompson on the bench, serving as his assistant coach. Yount was a four-year player a Nyack where she was a dominant post player for the Warriors. Her experience and familiarity with Coach Thompson's system will help King quickly build the contender the staff has envisioned.
THE OPENER AND BEYOND
The Tornado open their regular season at Lincoln Memorial University on Saturday, Nov. 12, with a 2:00 p.m. tipoff against the Railsplitters. King's first six games all take place away from home but they begin their conference season in just their fourth game of the year against Limestone College.
Following a trip into the Buckeye State for a December tournament in Wilberforce, Ohio the Tornado open the home schedule on Dec. 6 against Mars Hill then host LMU at the Student Center Complex on Dec. 10. King will then help fill the void that the NBA has left fans by taking a trip to Charlotte, N.C. to play Mars Hill again, this time inside the Charlotte Bobcats Arena.
King opens 2012 by beginning the heart of their conference slate, opening the New Year on the road against North Greenville (Jan. 3) before hosting both Converse (Jan. 5) and Mount Olive (Jan. 7). The Navy and Scarlett will end the season with three of its last four games on the road, ending the regular season against Erskine College, at home on Feb. 24.
The top eight teams in the conference, ranked by regular season conference record, will advance to the Conference Carolinas Tournament (Feb. 27 – March 3). The first four seeded teams will host first round games with the highest seeded remaining teams hosting each subsequent round. The tournament final will be held on March 3 and the winner will be given an automatic bid the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
The Thompson style of play includes a fast-paced offense that will look to push the ball up the court quickly to create scoring opportunities. Conditioning has been key to preparing for the upcoming season in order to run the set Coach Thompson intends to establish in the Tornado offense. According to Thompson, expect multiple sets and looks to be run out of their secondary breaks. The Tornado look to find holes in their opponent's defense by moving the ball and bodies around. The offense will feature an inside-out look that will mix in good post play down low as well as the ability to shoot the ball from outside if an opportunity presents itself.
Defensively, the Tornado look to pressure opposing offenses with a half-court, man-to-man defense. This will serve as a the team's bread and butter but Thompson notes that the team will also be open to using a situational trap defense and depending on the opponent, a matchup zone defense. The defense will allow for some flexibility for adjustment but conditioning will be key to this team running such a fast-paced style on both ends of the floor.
WHO IS COMING BACK
Senior forward Kalen Collins will captain the ship and serve as the senior-most post player for the Tornado. Last year the Wise, Va. native played in 29 of 30 games and averaged 5.3 points per game to accompany 5.6 rebounds per game. She led the team in offensive rebounds (53) and added 25 steals to her resume. Collins will be heavily relied upon to implement King's inside-out game plan whether it by scoring points or finding an open teammate. She is currently the president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and those leadership qualities will prove to be a great resource as the team looks to her and fellow senior Jana Gross to rally around come game time.
Gross was one of 11 guards to hit the floor last year for the Tornado and served as a quality shooter in 2010-11. From the floor she shot 35.6 percent though 66 of her 87 shot attempts were from behind the arc. The Dayton, Ohio native is the team's lead returning long ball shooter where she went 24-for-66 (.364) last season.
Brooke Johnson (Roan Mountain, Tenn.) will serve as co-captain to Collins and is the team's leading scorer that returns from last year's team (8.6 ppg). Johnson also served as a viable shooter for the Tornado in 2011-12, hitting 77-of-215 shots taken from the field and 26 three pointers. She was one of two players to post 31 steals a season ago and scored the second-most points (240) on the team.
The Tornado return a lineup filled with upperclassmen but six of their 15 players are in their first year with the program. Highly anticipated sophomore transfer Sara Mitchell has taken a medical redshirt after sustaining a knee injury this offseason but the staff is still exciting for the remaining five new faces the team will put out on the floor this season.
Alley Sprouse (Newport, Tenn.) joins the team as one of two freshmen and instantly the tallest member of the Tornado team at 6-foot, 2-inches. Her length and strength will help build depth in the post and provide her an opportunity to start early in the season.
Of the five post players the Tornado carry on the roster, three are first-year players, including Sprouse. Allison Bosse (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Samantha Cato (Andover, N.J.) are a pair of 5-foot, 11-inch forwards that will also compete for starting positions early and serve as good depth for a short line of post players.
Kelly Jackson (Lynchburg, Va.) and Tia Keitt (Dallas, Ga.) round out the class of first-year players in a deep class of guards. The two help comprise a squad of nine guards the team possesses and will be valuable as the team looks to sustain a fast-paced tempo for 40 minutes.
WELCOME TO THE LEAGUE
In their first year in Conference Carolinas, King has been tabbed to finish eighth in the league, overall. They received 46 points in the preseason coaches' poll which puts them in a tie with North Greenville in both the overall and West Division rankings. Barton College was named the preseason favorite out of the East Division and overall followed by West Division No. 1 Limestone. Three of the top four teams overall come out of the West Division, which may make for an interesting battle within the East Division.