With big losses at two guard positions, Tahlequah will be re-identifying itself over the summer.
The Lady Tigers, who began summer basketball workouts Monday, will be without their top two scorers from last season in Taya Green and Alli Stayathome.
Head coach David Qualls said it’s going to take some time to reconfigure.
“It’s still really early and it’s going to take probably an entire summer to figure out the true strengths of what we’re good at as far as from a scheme standpoint,” Qualls said Wednesday. “This is an important time. In basketball you can’t really afford to take a whole lot of time off. As a coach you mainly want to look for who’s going to show up during the summer and put in the work.”
Tahlequah, coming off a 19-8 season, still returns a good nucleus.
Senior Kloe Bowin and sophomore Faith Springwater are established forwards.
Kacey Fishinghawk, Lydia McAlvain and Kynli Heist will be in the backcourt after getting significant minutes in 2018-19.
Newcomers Lily Couch and Naida Rodriguez are two guards that will also add to the mix.
Qualls was most pleased with his team’s defensive play at the Tulsa Booker T. Washington Team Camp on Tuesday in games against the Lady Hornets and Tulsa Bishop Kelley.
He feels it’s the biggest strength.
“Just from what I’ve seen from evaluating, defensively I think is what this team can hang its hat on,” he said. “There’s a lot of length, a lot of quickness, girls that can guard multiple positions. Playing Booker T. last night, we had a four or five-minute stretch where we got a lot of deflections, a lot of steals and forced some turnovers. That’s what I like right now.
“We still have to figure out what we’re good at as far as man or zone, but the overall athleticism is good and it’s a group that plays hard.”
The biggest question mark is finding go-to scorers and perimeter shooting.
Green and Stayathome both averaged in double figures and were the primary weapons from beyond the 3-point line.
Springwater and Bowin are the returning options to fill scoring needs. Springwater averaged eight points and just under five rebounds as a freshman, and Bowin followed with 7.5 points and four boards.
“We have good flexibility with Faith,” Qualls said. “She’s a strong rebounder, she can play the five but she can also guard guards. She can be more of a playmaker this year and step out and play the three or even possibly the two.”
“Kloe looks like she’s going to be someone that we can go to inside,” Qualls said. “At times last year it was her playing off Alli and Taya to where this year she can be somebody we’re really focused on passing the ball to. She’s looked good from what I’ve seen from her.”
The Lady Tigers will also be without Hailey Sams, who was a valuable forward coming off the bench.
“From a game standpoint, once it gets into competition, who can fill those roles that departed is a big question,” Qualls said. “Alli was incredible for us as a point guard and will be tough to replace. We’ve got girls more than capable of filling those roles.”
Qualls, who coached the Large East team in the Oklahoma Girls Basketball Coaches Association All-State game on Saturday and was named Southeast Regional Coach of the Year in April, will take his group to the Oklahoma State University Team Camp on Saturday and to the Northeastern State University Team Camp on Wednesday, June 12.