After finishing as a part of the D-II state final four last season, Baylor’s Lady Red Raider basketball team looks to continue their previous season’s success this year. Although the Lady Red Raiders graduated many great players such as JuToreyia Willis who currently plays at Jacksonville State, the team has a lot of young talent and potential that could guide them to another semifinal appearance.
While doing research for this story, I had the chance to sit down with head Coach John Gibson to talk to him about the season so far and asked about his goals for the season and what lies ahead. "(Our goals) are to get better every day and find a way to play the best we can possibly play come tournament time,” he said. Gibson never mentioned it specifically, but the object every coach cherishes is the state title. He spoke on how “day by day we cannot worry about what’s happening to us and about games,” stating that the girls “just have to play and continue to execute.” The team this year only fields three upper classmen with only two seniors, so to say that the roster is young would be an understatement. The girls field the youngest roster in division II, but this roster is certainly not lacking talent.
Eighth grader Bella White is perhaps one of the most interesting star stories for the team. White played soccer at the varsity level for Baylor in the fall, and she now takes her talents to Duke Arena where she plays top minutes every game. When describing White, Gibson simply stated that “she’s just really good with the ball in her hand.” White's talent is certainly off the charts, and this talent is not to be overlooked when spotting her small stature on the court. It’s youth like this that for Gibson makes the team fun to coach. He looks forward to the season and claimed that it will “be fun to watch the [team] grow” as the season goes on.
After my brief meeting with Coach Gibson, I also spoke with senior guard Emily Rye about her time playing basketball for Baylor. Rye expressed similar goals to her head coach, mainly playing together and winning a title stating that “in order to do so we all have to give 100 percent every day whether it’s at practice or in a game.” Rye mentioned the youth on the team as well but pointed out that “the team chemistry could not be better.” As a fan, this statement is encouraging to hear because if a team knows each other well off the court, it certainly adds to the competitiveness and teamwork on the court. “Coach Gibson will teach...you things that will...change the way you go about things,” said Rye. These things aren’t necessarily all basketball related. I’ve seen the head coach many times working tirelessly with his players on an English essay of math homework off the court which furthers the relationships between player and coach. “It’s not about necessarily playing basketball for me it’s about the memories and friendships I have made along the way,” reflected Rye.
In the end, although the Lady Red Raiders are off to a somewhat slow start to the season, their best basketball has yet to be played. If they follow the game plan of hard work day in and day out spoken on by both Gibson and Rye, the improvements they can make by the end of the year are limitless. The goals will be to gain useful experience and play with heart every game, and even if they cannot manage a state title in the end, they will certainly be able to look back and say they gave it all they had. Make sure to pack out Duke Arena this season for what should be an exiting season of basketball for the ladies in red.