Gone are the playmaking talents of W.F. West girls basketball all-time assist leader Kyla McCallum, or the deft-scoring efforts of all-time scoring leader Drea Brumfield. The strong wing presences of Lexi Roberts, Makayla Mencke, Olivia Remund, and the energy of Maggie Busse will also be missed by head coach Kyle Karnofski.
But with tons of faces who have been around the program for years and have seen this program as it has been built, and taken home trophies at state, the coach is excited for the new opportunities that await W.F. West.
“It’s a new nucleus,a new chemistry,” Karnofski said. “The group we had was phenomenal for a long time, they did a lot of great things, but the new group is fun and fun to be around and it’s different. It’s a different style of basketball and their chemistry is really good. The girls really seem to be buying in and having a lot of fun.”
That group includes a lot of faces that aren’t necessarily new, but will be asked to do a lot of new things this season.
Morgan Rogerson, fresh off a first team all-league selection on the volleyball court, is the lone senior on the Bearcats roster and played in every game for the Bearcats off the bench. Sophomore point guard Amanda Bennett played a bit more off the ball than she will this season, starting 20 games opposite McCallum last year.
Carlie Deskins and Julia Dalan also earned strong minutes a year ago, and reserves Lena Fragner and Grace Simpson will also be relied upon to contribute in ways they haven’t before at the varsity level in 2022-23.
“All of those girls have played and even some of those girls that are newer have been in the program since middle school,” Karnofski said. “They’re definitely greener for their roles but they aren’t new to the program. They’re learning where they can find shots and hunt a bit on defense, but it's been cool to see where they’ve already grown their game from last year in new roles.”
Still, with a mostly new core of starters, not a whole lot is going to change for the Bearcats and what they want to do on the court.
W.F. West is still going to make teams work offensively for every shot, and look to run in transition to get its offense going. Though the players have changed, the mindset is the same.
“We always say our defense runs our offense, we pride ourselves on that,” Karnofski said. “That’s something that’s a bit of a focus thing for us, they’ve bought in and have done a good job learning. We have girls that saw it last year, it's just not the spot they stood in practice or in a game or walk-through until this year.
“The identity of us if we want to be good defensively, we want to make other teams uncomfortable and that will only help us run the floor and get some easy buckets in transition.”
Karnofski also said while the leadership is new, it's coming from just about every player on a new-look roster. Just about every varsity player that will get meaningful minutes has stepped up and improved greatly thanks to summer work and even just the week and a half of practice the Bearcats have had.
And despite the new faces, the new chemistry and nucleus, the goals and lofty expectations that the Bearcats have set for themselves in recent years has not changed in the slightest, with W.F. West’s first game scheduled for next Tuesday at home against R.A. Long.
“Our goal is to play in March, we want to play on that Saturday and we’ve talked about that,” Karnofski said. “You want to play on that Saturday in March so you can hang a banner. We’re hungry, we’re excited. It’s a different team, the legacy and the idea of what we do hasn’t changed, the people have changed but the goal is still the same.”