Newcomers add depth to solid returning girls basketball lineup


S. Findley

Lindsey Walker breaks through Ella Hobson to set up for a pass.

Sam Findley, Sports Editor

The girls basketball team, which does not have a senior on the roster, prepares for its upcoming season surrounded by new and uncertain conditions. Center Grove lost its top scoring option last season in Mary Wilson, but despite the loss, the Trojans may have things brewing with newcomers Rachel Wirts, Allie Wiseman, Lilly Bischoff and Savanna Bischoff joining a strong cast of returning sophomores and juniors. 

In his fourth year, head coach Kevin Stuckmeyer knows the difficulties of preparing for a season with players new to the system but understands the importance of building positive habits early.

“No magic formula, just time on task. You know, putting in the time building habits. I’m starting to get the mind and the body right, and basketball is a habits game. It is a reactionary game, so when you can build those habits and get your body where it needs to be then that reaction becomes a little bit slower in the mind and you can kinda react to what the defense is giving you and start to take things away,” Stuckmeyer said. “We’re just trying to become athletes and do that. We have a lot of new faces so we’re putting in a lot; we want to just try and slow their mind down and get them comfortable with our program,” 

Although the Trojans retain the core of their nucleus with sophomores Aubrie Booker and Audrey Annee, as well as juniors Emily Karr and Ella Hobson, the team has the potential to look completely different. 

“I think this year’s team has potential to look better because we have a lot more scoring options this year,” Hobson said. “With our transfers, we are going to get a lot more points in the post, and we also have some good new shooters that are pretty consistent. We are moving the ball a lot better and already have a good connection.” 

Last season was Annee’s first in the Center Grove system, so she spent time trying to get her footing. 

“I’ve never had an offense like this so it was hard to adjust to it,” Annee said. “From the beginning, I was nearly in tears during practice waiting for everything to slow down, and starting this year I was able to lead more because it all slowed down. I was able to help the freshmen.”

Stuckmeyer has taken notice of Annee’s development.

“I think Audrey Anne has had a really solid start to the season here, and she played for us last year but her role will be a little bit different. She will get more minutes,” Stuckmeyer said. 

Another Trojan Stuckmeyer has taken notice of is Wirts, a 6’2 sophomore center with multiple D1 offers who will play her first year with the Trojans after being homeschooled. Wirts could have the ability to lead the Trojans in the rebounding game and add a post presence on both sides of the ball. The sophomore center hopes she can provide to the Trojans rebounding game along with their ability to look to the paint to make plays defensively and offensively. 

“I think I’ll help the rebounding game a lot. I’m hoping I’ll add at least 10 to 12 rebounds. I averaged a little over 16 last year but obviously competition is different, it will be harder to get rebounds but I’m hoping to help more,” Wirts said. I think defensively I’ll just be in the paint; obviously I’ll come out if my person comes out on the perimeter but just make sure nothing comes in the paint and get through me. Offensively I think I’ll be more of an inside threat and do more post moves. I mean I can step out and get the three but I’m more looking to get the and-one.”

Center Grove has an abundance of shooters to complement Wirts’ presence in the paint, boasting four girls with a three-point percentage of 29% or higher. Hobson, who averaged 7 points and 2.5 assists last year, is one of these shooters and knows the team has floor-stretching ability. 

“I think our offense will look different because we have a post player this year and even though we’re losing Mary (Wilson), we have a lot of good three point shooters like Savanna Bischoff and Lily Bischoff,” Hobson said.

The Trojans won’t be limited to their shooters and post up game provided by Wirts. Booker had her coming out party last postseason, averaging 11.67 points over a three game span, including a 16-point game against Franklin Central, and will be a key to the Trojan’s offense. 

“Last year, obviously when Mary wasn’t hitting her shots, I had to step up,” Booker said. “This year I think I’m more confident to score more and to bring more points to the game, drive more, and I’m working on my three’s. Over the summer I worked a lot on being ready to shoot off  the screens and definitely in our open we set a lot of screens and come off cuts, so I’m just more ready to shoot, kind of like Mary did and also on fist ups when we drive baseline or drive middle I’m more ready to put up some crafty finishes.”

Booker’s impact won’t stop on the offensive side of the ball with the sophomore being the team’s point of attack defender, often guarding the other team’s point guard. Booker averaged 1 steal per game last year.

“Last year I guarded the point guard a lot just to pressure and to help our defense get in the gaps and get those deflections. I think that will probably be the same this year, probably just guarding the point guard,” Booker said. 

Even with a line up loaded with talent, the Trojans have challenges ahead, including a strong conference field and county rival Franklin, which defeated Center Grove in last year’s sectional final en route to a semi state berth. 

“We haven’t sat down and given a specific ‘We’re going to do this’ but we have traditional goals we try to do every year. One is to improve every day, which we’ve done so far. We’ve done a nice job the first week of practice,” Stuckmyer said. “We always want to compete for a sectional and compete for a conference. We just want to overachieve and let everything else take care of itself.”