Summit girls basketball hopes depth and versatility help replace talented leaders
Now that the conversation finally has turned from the novel coronavirus to the actual basketball played on the court, Summit High School girls basketball head coach Kayle Walker-Burns is excited about the Tigers depth.
After losing leaders Nicole Kimball and Anna Tomlinson from last year’s team, Walker-Burns believes this year’s team has more capable players, many of whom are interchangeable positionally and stylistically.
“This year, I feel like we have a solid nine to 10 kids, so when we sub in and out, we won’t see a lapse on the court,” Walker-Burns said.
Senior returning starter Karen Barrios will lead the young group with several sophomores who will be primary contributors. Walker-Burns views the shortened 13-game season as Barrios’ time to shine after starting with Kimball for a couple of years.
“With this group, she’s probably more of a two-guard rather than a point guard,” Walker-Burns said. “She’s a great shooter, great on defense, and I hope this year she’s more vocal. She leads by example on the court and works hard in practice.”
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Barrios said making up for the loss of Kimball will be especially difficult for the team from a leadership standpoint. She said she thinks the team can make up for the loss of key players in part thanks to the group’s recent club playing experience, which helped in the offseason. Unable to practice officially as a high school team due to county COVID-19 regulations, Walker-Burns had the group travel as a club each weekend to compete in places such as Wyoming, where regulations were different.
The Tigers are now able to practice and play indoors thanks to a state variance granted to the Colorado High School Activities Association — the governing body of statewide high school sports.
“The teams (we played) were at a higher level, and we competed well in some of the games,” Barrios said about the club team. “I’m surprised with COVID (the high school season) is happening. I thought we would be canceled. In our last year at the high school, this is something we needed.”
Walker-Burns said juniors Emily Koetteritz and Sarah Pappas will provide veteran leadership for the Tigers. Pappas will do so thanks to her tall frame and accurate shooting from the power forward and center positions while Koetteritz will provide a steady, reliable, fundamentally strong game where she’s often tasked with guarding the opponent’s best player. In her first season as a varsity player, junior Callie Smith brings excellent shooting ability.
As for that strong sophomore group, Autumn Rivera figures to be a strong force inside and out on the wing after she followed up her all-conference freshman campaign with an offseason full of club basketball and hard work. Sophomore Paola Arredondo also hopes to start where she left off at the end of last season when she was on a tear — this time from the point guard position Kimball vacated. Throw in sophomores Brina Babich, Anna Garvert and Kelly Duffey — all players Walker-Burns thinks will have an impact this season — and hardworking senior Ashley Barela, and Walker-Burns is hopeful the team will compete with all of its Western Slope League rivals.
“I don’t know who will step up and be in the spotlight each night, but that’s a good problem to have, not relying on one or two athletes to perform,” Walker-Burns said. “This is the hungriest, most dedicated group I have had as a whole in a long time. We are very guard heavy this year, but all of our guards are on the taller side. And I feel like this group is very athletic, very fast. I’m hoping we can do our press a lot this year and just kind of run teams.”
All that aside, there is the COVID-19 variable. It’s unknown how the season could be affected, particularly by contact tracing connected with in-person school attendance. Walker-Burns said that is a reality she has spoken about with other coaches. And 1 1/2 weeks into practice, she said some members of the basketball program already have had to quarantine. She said if one to two varsity players are forced out of a game, the team likely will proceed to play. But if that number goes to three or four, postponement will be considered.
“We will always put school first,” Walker-Burns said. “But it stinks because a lot of the quarantines are happening in school. It’s hard. School should always be first, and we know the importance of social interaction at school for mental health.”
• Jan. 29 vs. West Grand, 6 p.m.
• Jan. 30 at Roaring Fork, 3 p.m.
• Feb. 2 vs. Glenwood Springs, 4:30 p.m.
• Feb. 4 at Rifle, 6:15 p.m.
• Feb. 6 at Battle Mountain, 1 p.m.
• Feb. 12 at Palisade, 4:30 p.m.
• Feb. 13 vs. Eagle Valley, 1 p.m.
• Feb. 16 at Steamboat Springs, 4:30 p.m.
• Feb. 20 vs. Summit, 1 p.m.
• Feb. 23 vs. Steamboat Springs, 4:30 p.m.
• Feb. 25 vs. Battle Mountain, 4:30 p.m.
• Feb. 26 at Glenwood Springs, 4:30 p.m.
• March 5 vs. Rifle, 4:30 p.m.
• March 6 at Eagle Valley, 1 p.m.
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