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Examiner
  • Patriots successfully share point guard duties

  • It wasn’t by design, but at some point this season Truman girls basketball coach Steve Cassity ended up with a point guard by committee.

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  • It wasn’t by design, but at some point this season Truman girls basketball coach Steve Cassity ended up with a point guard by committee.
    Fortunately, this isn’t the kind of collective effort that’s needed to mask a hole at the position. It’s actually the opposite, because in senior Brooke Parton and juniors Abby Hix and Kayla Harrell, Cassity has three strong ballhandlers with different strengths that have been crucial to the Class 5 No. 1-ranked Patriots’ 23-0 start.
    Technically, Parton, at 5-foot-5, is the team’s designated point guard and the player who Cassity said gives Truman its most traditional look. But that doesn’t mean much because the Pats swap duties so frequently.
    Like Parton, Hix has the look of a point guard with a 5-6 frame, but she possesses the mentality of a shooting guard.
    “She’s a gunslinger,” Cassity said. “Abby doesn’t have much of a conscience, and as a shooter, you’re not supposed to.”
    Harrell’s the one who might be the most difficult for opponents to match up with. At 5-11, she also frequently spends time in the post. But with 6-1 Becca Jonas and 5-11 Ashley Guenther already patrolling the paint, Harrell adds another lengthy body for teams to deal with around the perimeter.
    “I think she’s sort of an X-factor for a lot of teams to try to guard,” Cassity said. “The fact that she can shoot the 3, she can use her size to post up, she can use her length to drive and finish. She’s just a difficult matchup.”
    Harrell never played the point before this season and Cassity said there was never a conscious effort to add ballhadling duties to her responsibilities. But several different times this season she was thrust into that role to help the Pats break pressure and Cassity realized what a weapon she could be there.
    “As a coach and as a team, you look at it and go, ‘Hey, that was pretty effective. We could do that more often,’” Cassity said.
    Cassity said it’s a process that the players pretty much worked out on their own. Different matchups call for different point guards, and they all say they’re fine handling the rock or playing off the ball.
    “Obviously Kayla’s taller,” Hix said. “So she can play down low, she can play the wing, she can bring the ball up. I’ve probably played it more than Kayla has, but she’s kind of stepped up the past two years.”
    Harrell and Hix both have the ability to stretch opposing defenses. Hix averages 12 points per game and shoots 42 percent from beyond the arc while Harrell scores nine per game and hits 39 percent of her 3-pointers. Harrell also hauls in six rebounds per contest and typically draws the other team’s top scorer on defense.
    Page 2 of 2 - With Hix giving the Pats their most dangerous 3-point threat and Guenther and Jonas posting up, Harrell is forced to play a jack-of-all trades role. That’s something she excels at.
    “Kayla is so versatile,” Guenther said. “She’s the most versatile player I’ve ever played with. ... She’s so valuable. We wouldn’t be the same team without her.”
    While Hix is Truman’s appointed gunner, she’s also earned the trust of her coaches and teammates as a go-to scorer in crunch time.
    “I have full confidence in her whenever she shoots,” Harrell said. “Half the time, I’m running back because she’s going to make it.”
    It’s a perfect scenario for Cassity. Not only are his players unselfish, but their talents seem to mesh, giving Truman a cohesive unit that’s lifted the program to its most victories since the 2000-01 season.
    “We got everyone,” Harrell said. “Any given game, anyone can step up. That’s really good for us. If we do need a game where I need to score more, I’m going to step up and try to help out. But usually they got it covered so I just do everything else.”
     
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