Aubrey, Lady Buffs optimistic about new season

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   The Milligan College Lady Buffaloes return a lot of experienced players, and head coach Rich Aubrey hopes that will mean a lot of wins during the 2002-2003 season.
   The Buffs have several starters back, and Aubrey says that a lot of players will start during this campaign.
   "Technically we return three starters," Aubrey said. "Amanda Greene, Amanda Hammons and Ginny White all return. But I think you add Vera Conkin, who comes back much healthier than she's been probably since her freshman year.
   "Lacy York started at the end of last year, and of course we have Lacy coming back. I think we're going to have a lot of different people start this year. I think we bring back a lot of different people with experience, and over the course of this year we might have eight or nine different people start games for us."
   A good team has to have a good point guard, and the Lady Buffs have that in White. The former Hampton standout, who is one of three former Bulldogs on the squad, knows how to run the floor.
   Aubrey says White just keeps getting better each day.
   "Ginny's had a good fall," Aubrey said. "Her shot is better this year. She's worked very hard at getting stronger this summer. She's very dedicated to weight training, and that added strength makes it easier. Her stroke is more natural, and that makes it easier for her to shoot from the three-point line, and we feel like that's going to be an added dimension for her game.
   "Her strength is going to help her with her ball handling. This fall she has worked very hard to become a better rebounder, and to do some things she's been asked to do at the college level that she didn't have to do in high school. She's poised to have a good season."
   White admits she is working hard to improve her scoring.
   "I realize more this year that I can be more of a scorer," White said. "Coach really helped me out with my confidence. Him putting confidence in me and my teammates putting confidence in me really helped me get confidence in myself."
   Another former Hampton player is expected to make an immediate impact. Shooting guard Kari Stout was the go-to-player on Hampton's District 1-AA championship team last season.
   Stout brings lofty credentials to Milligan after having won the Northeast Tennessee Player-of-the-Year award last season.
   Aubrey didn't hesitate to say yes when asked if Stout would help right away.
   "I think so," Aubrey said. "She's had a good fall. Not only does she bring the ability to score, but she can score and create opportunities for her teammates. That's important. We need that in our offense. We're excited about the prospects of her doing that. She has the potential to be a very good defensive player. She has a lot to learn defensively, but she's very coachable. I feel that she will make an impact this year."
   Stout said she wants to be a team player for the Lady Buffs.
   "I want to help the team out as much as I can," Stout said. "I came here to play basketball. I love basketball, and I just want to do as much for the team as I can. I want to be a team player, and help the team out a lot."
   Junior forward Amanda Greene brings a lot of experience to the table for the Lady Buffaloes. Greene feels that a grueling off-season workout program will pay dividends for her and the rest of the Milligan team.
   "I think we will do better than last year," Greene said. "I know we're definitely in much better shape. We're working to get better chemistry. I think we're going to get it this year."
   Kingsport's Vera Conkin will return to the starting lineup after injuries kept her on the shelf most of last season. Conkin started as a freshman and sophomore, so Aubrey is hoping the guard can get back to her old ways.
   "Last year her starts were limited due to a physical condition, but now we have her back," Aubrey said.
   Hammons is another senior who will be counted on for production inside this season.
   Another Carter County product on the team is former Happy Valley standout Lacy York. She is the tallest player on the team at 6'1", and will give the Lady Buffs a major threat down low.
   Another center that will be competing for playing time is freshman Ashley Atkins, who is the second tallest player on the team at 6'0".
   Kristin Kerkvilet, Joy Clark, and Elizabeth Henter all figure to get in the mix this season.
   The Lady Buffs should be a standout team on the defensive side of the basketball, but they struggled on offense last year.
   Aubrey thinks that will change during the 2002-2003 campaign.
   "I'm pretty optimistic about this year," Aubrey said. "If I had to critique last year's team, I thought we were a pretty good defensive team.
   "Our biggest problem last year was that we had trouble scoring. Vera's back, we added Kari, and so many players have improved their offensive skills since last year. You can't necessarily count on that. We just happened to be lucky that this was a year where a lot of people were determined to get better, so we have a lot of people back who happen to be better offensively."
   Overall, Aubrey feels good about the upcoming season.
   "We've had the best fall we've ever had," Aubrey said. "We put our players through a tremendously challenging conditioning program, and they worked continually hard and have continued to work hard now that practice has started. I'm so pleased with the job our players have done, and I think we're poised to have an exciting year."