“I was excited because I realized how talented all the young players are,” Hankerson said. “That means that I will return everybody next year and they will be experienced.
“There is a good time to have seniors when they are knowledgeable of the game and going to bring something to the table but unfortunately with the senior class we just didn’t have anybody at Westlake,” Hankerson said.
Specifically, the Lady Lions are composed of 10 sophomores, four juniors and two freshmen. Therefore, the leadership on the floor starts with junior captain Lauren Turner.
“Lauren has been playing for three years,” Hankerson said. “She’s been showing a lot of leadership, and learning and maturing in the game as she goes.”
“Not having any seniors is not really a big deal to me because I’m learning just as everybody else is learning,” Turner said. “I’m just trying to be a leader. I like it. I like when my teammates ask me questions. Then I ask coach questions to make to sure that everybody is on the same page so we all can be okay in the end.”
This approach is shared by leading rebounder and sophomore Anriel Howard, Tierra Boykin, who is the younger sister of former player Sharnea Boykin, and freshmen Marissa Cantrell and Gina Smith.
“Anriel is one of the best athletes on the team if not the best all-around athlete,” Hankerson said. “She brings a lot of speed and leaping ability while playing the post.”
Even though the Lady Lions are currently 4-0, Hankerson admits there are still obstacles to overcome due to the youth of the team.
“The biggest challenge is them getting all the information taught to them,” Hankerson said. “Once they learn it they are going to roll with it but the challenge is finding all the minutes in the day to teach everything they need to know. But because there is no senior to look up to for that leadership and give them that guidance they can’t do that.”
Yet, Hankerson has a solution.
“I told them I am the senior citizen,” she said. “I am the only one who has that kind of experience because technically there is not one kid returning as a full-time starter.”