Looking to Raise the Bar After 19-Win Season, Stuart Hoops Cruises in George School Tourney
UP AND RUNNING: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Jalynn Spaulding dribbles up the court in a game last winter. Junior guard Spaulding helped Stuart get the 2016-17 season off to a good start, scoring 13 points as the Tartans defeated the George School (Pa.) 41-24 last Saturday in the finals of the George School Tournament. Stuart, which improved to 2-0 with the win, hosts the Solebury School (Pa.) on December 13.
After posting an impressive 19-9 record last winter, the Stuart Country Day School basketball team is raising the bar this season.
“The schedule is definitely stronger than it was last year,” said Stuart head coach Justin Leith.
“Realistically we can win every game on our schedule and we can also lose any game as well. We bumped it up a little bit which should be fun; I am optimistic. We have a much tighter group, the team chemistry is better.”
A major cause of optimism for Stuart is the return of star junior guard Jalynn Spaulding.
“Jalynn is taller and stronger; she is physically bigger,” said Leith of Spaulding, who came up big last weekend, helping the Tartans defeat the George School (Pa.) 41-24 last Saturday in the finals of the George School Tournament.
“She has grown an inch or two and is definitely stronger. She is finishing with either hand. She is shooting the ball extremely well and her energy is definitely up this year.”
The addition of freshman Jasmine Hansford should give the Tartans a boost of energy.
“She is small but she finishes well, especially against bigger guards,” said Leith, who will also use senior Julia Kahn, sophomore Raven Wright, junior Tonya Glover, and freshman Samantha Humbles at guard.
“She handles the ball well. She plays great defense, she can turn pretty much anyone. We had some really good guards in our first three scrimmages and she stayed in front of them.”
Junior transfer Marissa Lewis figures to bolster the Stuart back court, “Marissa came from Steinert and has been really consistent,” added Leith.
“She has been great in picking everything up and being in there with everybody. She is a good athlete and she is definitely going to help us.”
The Tartans boast very good front court option in sophomore forward Bey-Shana Clark.
“I think she has grown a little bit, she added more zing to her inside game,” said Leith of Clark, who scored 24 points in the win over the George School on Saturday as the Tartans improved to 2-0.
“She is able to shoot more consistently from the outside; that is really what she is offering now. She can knock down a 15-footer and she hit a couple of 3s in our scrimmages.”
Junior Madeleine Michaels has grown into a stabilizing force and will work down low with Clark.
“Maddie Michaels was named captain because she is a great leader; she leads by example,” said Leith.
“She is not the most talented athlete but it doesn’t really matter if you have a motor and a heart like she does. She is leading us on the defensive end and she has been knocking down open shots.”
Leith is hoping that going back to basics will help his team get better and better as the winter unfolds.
“We have decided to do a lot more teaching early in the season, small things like shot fakes, pass fakes and really breaking the game down,” said Leith, whose team will look to keep on the winning track when it hosts the Solebury School (Pa.) on December 13.
“My playbooks are usually several pages for offense and defense. This year we have one or two things that we are going to get really good at and when we do, we will add one or two things more. We are not going to make things complicated this year; hopefully it will pay dividends in January and February.”