Allison, Orth Will Be Leaned On Heavily
By JOSH STROPE
WHEELING — The Linsly girls won’t have a lot in terms of numbers this year, with nine kids on the roster. That puts a lot of extra emphasis on the starting five to stay healthy and out of foul trouble. Throw in a new coach with a new system and things could easily go south in a hurry.
Of course, most teams don’t have Vivian Allison and Jazzie Orth, either.
Allison and Orth combine to form one of the top duos on any team in the Ohio Valley and will be the focal point of much of what new Cadets coach Rebecca Upton does this season.
“They are hugely important when it comes to scoring, defense, rebounding, Xs and Os and leadership,” Upton said. “We have a lot of kids where it’s their first year on varsity, not to mention with a new coach hanging around.
“Vivian and Jazzie are trying to bring the team together and keep the ship sailing. That is something we have talked a lot about. We need them to stay on board, even if it gets frustrating. There are going to be things I do that they don’t like and don’t agree with, but keeping everyone together and encouraging the younger kids, that will be huge.
“They don’t realize how big of an impact they can have off the court, as well as on it.”
Allison, who recently signed to continue her basketball career at Mercyhurst, is a talented guard that can shoot from the outside, as well as attack the rim.
Orth, too, has good size, but Upton stresses what is overlooked is her agility.
“That is something we are looking to develop,” Upton said. “We want her to be a bigger presence in the post and be more physical. We want her blocking and altering more shots and take advantage of her size.”
Coming back from the junior class is 6-foot-1 post player Mary Bedway.
“She is a finesse post player with arms for years,” Upton said. “She is a good rebounder and can alter shots because of her length. We need to get her more involved in the scoring.”
Manny Raymond will be the point guard and someone that has really caught Upton’s eye.
“Manny is tenacious defender and is just straight up guts all the time,” Upton said. “Getting her more involved on the offensive end is important. This is a kid that is all hustle and heart, feisty and fiery.”
The final returning player for the Cadets is Mia Cascio, who will be looked at as a potential starter or someone that can provide plenty of good minutes anywhere she is needed.
“She is smart and the one that is picking stuff up quickly,” Upton said. “She can play multiple positions, whether that is as backup point guard or an off guard. She could be a sleeper on this team as someone that you may not expect but could have a huge impact and win a game or two for us.”
The final four are new to the program, although not new to basketball.
Junior Noora Pitkanen comes from Finland and Upton said is your typical European-style player.
“She is a stretch 4 who is about 5-10, but can face up and shoot a 3,” Upton said. “She is very skilled and we are looking at working her in at some guard and some post, depending on what kind of lineup we want to run.”
La-Kevia Neeley has taken the role as the heart and soul of the team. A native of the Bahamas, Neeley is the talker of the group and keeps the team lively with her dancing during warm-ups. But when it is time to play, she is all business and is one of the scrappiest kids on the Cadets roster.
Mackenzie Manukin is a senior, but first-year player for the Cadets after coming over from Bellaire St. John.
“She is a tough kid and works incredibly hard,” Upton said. “At 5-9, 5-10, she gets after it. She is trying to get back into the swing of things, but we expect her to be a solid contributor.”
The Cadets don’t have any sophomores and only one freshman in Johni Leek.
“She never stops working and that is the key to her success,” Upton said. “Playing with a bunch of kids, she is only going to get better. She does a great job at compartmentalizing the game. She has been focusing on playing great defense and rebounding. I am excited about her future.”
Despite the lack of depth, Upton is confident she can build on the success the Cadets have had the past two years. Linsly is coming off two consecutive trips to the OVAC Finals, winning the title in 2015 under Maggie Allison.
Upton, who spent the previous 12 seasons as women’s coach at Bethany College, hopes everyone knows the role they will need to play to be successful.
“Not having depth is always a concern, but I am not sure how much of a hindrance it will be,” Upton said. “We start out with a marathon of games so there is depth concern early, but we have some seasoned players and that is going to be big. Mentally, everyone needs to come every day understanding they have a role and while that role may not be playing 32 minutes, there will be minutes for everyone.
“We are in a unique situation with our size. We want to be able to use it to our advantage but we also want to be able to get out in transition. We are not going to be big all the time.
“We are not playing games based on last year or based on paper. If so, there is no point getting on the floor. We are going to be a different team and so will all the teams on our schedule.”
Upton is assisted by Rebekah Martin.