Reed advanced all the way to the state championship game last February before getting bounced by state powerhouse Bishop Gorman, which has now won four of Nevada’s last five large-school titles. The latest in a string of deep playoff runs is just one reason the RHS club is excited about a new season.
“I’m really excited about this year,” sixth-year Reed coach Sara Schopper said. “We’ve got a lot of new kids in the program, learning the system. They’re working hard and I’m excited to see how we do.
“We’ve got five returners who are hungry. They were there last year (in the state title game). That competitive goal is already on the table. They want to get there again this year.”
With less than two weeks of official practice under its belts and a half roster of new varsity players, there hasn’t been a whole lot of unique or complex basketball being taught at Raiders workouts just yet. Schopper said that’s not the early focus.
“We do a lot of fundamental stuff in the first two weeks,” she said. “Shooting, ball handling, defensive basics are the biggest things and we try to get in shape. We don’t put a lot of plays in until the third week. It does feel a little more rushed than in the past.”
That’s probably because there’s a greater importance to win early in the season. The Northern 4A’s new scheduling plan has High Desert League schools, like Reed, playing 16 league games rather than the 12 of recent years. That means schools are playing four league games in December and many open their seasons with a league game Nov. 30. That’s the case for Reed which goes to Douglas for its season opener Tuesday.
The new schedule is getting mixed reviews.
“I still think it’s good for us. It lets us know exactly where we’re at early on,” Schopper said. “I like more games. I don’t know how I feel about them all counting toward league. I’ll let you know based on our wins and losses in a month or so.”
Reed’s five returners are seniors Micah Walker and Joanna Phillips and juniors Nyasha LeSure, Sierra Hooft and Makaela Moore. Walker was a first-team all-league player last winter while LeSure was a second-team selection.
Raiders opponents should also expect big things from freshman Gabby Williams. The cat-quick athletic guard may be the most talented freshman in the state and she’ll fill a key role for Reed as soon as she steps on the court.
“She’s going to jump right into our point guard spot,” Schopper said. “She’s jumping into a big spot right off the bat. I think she’ll do really well. She’s up for the challenge. But we’re not putting the whole program on Gabby’s shoulders. This is a team game. all of our girls will step up. We’re not going to try and get it done with one person.”
The Raiders’ coach has seen her squad compete during offseason summer tournaments earlier in the year and in non-mandatory open gym workouts. She believes defense can and needs to be a team strength.
“That’s always been what our program was built off of,” Schopper said. “We’re long and athletic. We’re tall and we have long arms. We’ve got some really good girls that understand the game, anticipate well and get to open spots. I believe the defense will be a team strength and that will feed our offense.”
While Raiders coaches and players think they can be among the North’s elite this season, you won’t find them expounding on their perfections any time soon. Schopper admits most of her roster is young and inexperienced when it comes to playing key roles on a varsity basketball team.
“We have a lot of new people,” Schopper said. “Sometimes we pass too much and forget when we need to score and finish. We need more team awareness. We also have to teach the new kids our philosophy. We need to get everyone on the same page, but I love the enthusiasm and desire of these kids right now. If they keep giving me that, we’ll be OK.”