Williamstown to rely on senior duo for leadership
WILLIAMSTOWN — The Williamstown High School girls basketball team of head coach Fred Sauro is just hoping to get back on the court and play some roundball.
Coming off a 15-11 campaign last year, which featured eight Yellowjacket setbacks to teams in the top five, WHS will be led by two experienced seniors in guard Nicole Reynolds and forward Jayla Wiseman.
“Those two kids have worked extremely hard,” admitted Sauro, who also will have the services of 12th-grade guard Gracie Graham. “Jayla has played a lot with Brett Cowdery’s team out of Belpre. He’s a good one and really helps them out.”
Before Jim Justice, the governor of West Virginia, ended winter sports until Jan. 11 the ‘Jackets were able to get five practices in.
“We practiced early in the morning on that Friday,” coach Sauro recalled before hearing the mandate. “Everyone was kind of restricted and we couldn’t do all we wanted to. I was impressed with our intensity and our athleticism.”
Reynolds had a better than 2-to-1 turnover-to-assist ratio as a junior. She led WHS in dimes and was second on the team in both steals and deflections.
“Nicole has improved immensely shooting the ball and she can pass and handle it and she can also shoot it now deep from the perimeter,” said the coach, who noted WHS set a school record for made 3s last season.
Wiseman, who plans to continue playing somewhere in college, averaged nearly 11 points per outing. She shot a team-high 54.3% from the floor and also canned 71.9% from the foul line. She also led the team with 146 rebounds and a baker’s dozen blocks.
“Jayla is a vocal leader and very encouraging,” Sauro added. “She’s got some colleges looking at her. There are two or three that are very interested in her that saw her play out in Indianapolis.”
Reynolds wants to make the most of her final prep season and said she plans to attend West Virginia University and major in elementary education.
“I think maybe in the future I might coach or something, but I think I’m done playing after this year,” Reynolds admitted. “Obviously, the first week we weren’t allowed to have basketball or anything because we were in orange. That was the most we ever conditioned for a season, obviously because we couldn’t play. I was proud of all of us.
“We worked really hard that week and we were grateful. It was nice being together after we hadn’t played together in the summer or the fall. I think we are all like ready to get started again. We’ve all been doing stuff on our own, running, shooting or whatever we can. We all miss each other. It’s like a family. We’re hopeful to get the season and take whatever we can.”
The senior duo said they’ve been playing together since basically fourth grade and went to coach Sauro’s camps together.
“I think it’s really good to have that bond with someone you grew up with,” Reynolds added of Wiseman, who spent her sophomore year in Kentucky. “I think we connect really well together on and off the court.
“She’s one of my really good friends. I love playing with her. I think she’s a great post and I can’t wait to see what she does in college.”
Wiseman not only was third on the team as a junior with 68 deflections, but she also recorded 48 assists and 40 steals.
“About as good as it can get, I guess,” admitted Wiseman when asked how the long break of having no basketball was going. “I have a hoop outside my house I shoot on a lot, but now it’s getting pretty cold. I’m trying to get in shape with running and stuff. I really hope we get a season in January.”
Despite not playing for the Yellowjackets two years ago, her return last season went smooth.
“It was like I never left,” Wiseman said. “I missed my teammates and coaches a lot. I was happy to be back and have two more years with them. We had a good season for what we had I thought.”
Being a post player, Wiseman understands the importance of having a teammate like Reynolds, who likes running the pick-and-roll.
“That’s our favorite thing to do,” Wiseman added. “She’s great at feeding me in the post. She’s a great person and we’re good friends and get along great. I’m grateful for all my teammates. We have pretty good friendships.”
Wiseman, whose top school right now is Bethany College, hopes to increase her defensive rebounding ability this year and also plans to focus more on upping her steal totals.
“Going to state as a team would be great, you know,” Wiseman stated. “Going to state is always the main goal. I’ve been talking to a few (colleges). All the others are out of state. I’m really excited. I’ve always wanted to play at the college level.
“That’s been one of my goals. It’s awesome to play for a team who has your back no matter what. I’m really blessed and thankful for being part of the program. I’m definitely going to be sad when it ends.”
That’s something Reynolds wholeheartedly agrees with.
“I just really like the small town aspect of it,” Reynolds said of being a Yellowjacket.
“It’s like a second family, honestly. They all care about us, each and every coach. If it’s basketball, school, whatever they will be there for you and even after you graduate.
“Like coach (Howard) Rowsey says you have my number. It’s awesome to have that and look up to people. The girls are like sisters. There’s no drama and they are always there for me and it’s just fun.”
Contact Jay Bennett at email@example.com