With many area teams competing in holiday tournaments this week, the high school basketball season is about to round the corner into the new year, and many teams are looking to turn the corner with it.
Several local teams are in action at Keenan’s Capital City Classic and Heathwood Hall’s Home Pest Control Holiday Invitational.
But the 2011-12 champion Dreher girls squad, led by junior Kaydra Duckett, has taken its campaign to Florida, for the Naples Holiday Shootout.
Duckett is part of the Blue Devils’ trio of stars who returned to lead the squad on its repeat title quest. With fellow junior Makayla Johnson on limited duty while recovering from knee surgery, team captain Duckett has done well to help the squad adjust to its shifted line up.
“Kaydra is doing a great job leading the team,” said coach Teresa Jones, whose team is 12-1 after going 3-1 in the CresCom Bank Holiday Invitational last week.
For Duckett, the task has not been without its challenges.
“We’re not able to get the look that we’d wanted this season, because we had to change the lineup, and some of the things I planned to be working on, I’m not able to do,” Duckett said.
Duckett is playing inside much more to compensate for the absence of Johnson’s size and assertiveness. Younger players have filled in Duckett’s perimeter position, while Jazmine Robinson steadies the Blue Devils at guard.
Despite some early inconsistency, Jones said, the Blue Devils have weathered the changes well.
“What we’re really looking for, and what we got, was not just me stepping up, but a lot of other players, too,” Duckett said.
There is no doubt though, the shift has improved Duckett’s game.
“I’m really working on being a more all-around player,” said Duckett, who is averaging 14.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
Jones said Duckett “is doing an exceptional job on both ends of the floor.”
“There were games where she’s not the leading scorer but she distributed the ball well, or she played very well in some other key area,” Jones said. “I definitely do see her developing a better all-around game.”
Duckett’s success during this transitional period has helped buoy the squad.
“It does make it really easy for me to lead these girls. They value my opinion and they see the work that I am willing to do for this team,” she said.
Johnson is expected to return this week or at the start of region season.