While she has had plenty of talent surrounding her as the Raiders have won back-to-back regional crowns and a state championship last year, this is her team now.
“There is no doubt, Gabby is one of our main players. The team is going to go around her,” Reed girls basketball coach Sara Ramirez said. “I’m excited for her. She’s a stud. She’s going to play well. She’s a captain and a leadership role is natural for her. The team follows her. I like how a lot of the girls are stepping into new roles and she’s taking the time to get them on the same page. It’s always nice to have a leader like that.”
Williams was the co-High Desert League Player of the Year as a sophomore and it will be hard to imagine her not earning the same recognition again.
However, the Raiders did graduate two of their three first team all-league selections in forward Nyasha LeSure and Sierra Hooft. Junior sharpshooter Tyler Sumpter does return and will provide a kickout for Williams when she drives to the hoop.
Ramirez said Sumpter is healthy this year and already looks good with her shooting touch. Last winter, Sumpter was plagued by shin problems, which caused her to miss some action.
It won’t be easy to replace LeSure and Hooft though. LeSure was a force underneath the basket offensively and defensively, while Hooft’s length made her a valuable asset in Reed’s trapping defenses. She also was one of the top hustlers and finishers on fast breaks.
Ramirez hopes Tina Vernon will pick up a lot of the slack left behind by LeSure.
“She has huge shoes to fill. Last year she got to play with Nyasha to see what’s expected,” Ramirez said. “I think she’ll do well. Nyasha was so talented that it will be hard to fill those shoes, but I think Tina will give us what we need. With Gabby as your point guard and another rebounder, it kind of helps alleviate some pressure.”
Junior Brooke Cervantes was an all-league honorable mention pick last year as the team’s sixth man and she returns. The JV call-ups also watched the team roll through the postseason.
“They all moved up last regional and state, so they were a part of it,” Ramirez said. “They know what our goals are and what our expectations are, so that’s a good thing.”
The Raiders are coming off a great season in which they finished with a 23-2 record and didn’t lose to a Nevada opponent all year. The run to a state championship included a 16-game winning streak, but more impressively, it included a 4-0 record over bitter rival Reno.
And while last year’s success included a second straight 16-0 league mark, that achievement was much more difficult than the year before and Ramirez expects a third straight undefeated league season to be even more challenging this season. She said Spanish Springs, Reno, Bishop Manogue and Carson are all teams that could be dangerous.
“I think it will be strong competition and it could be anybody’s year,” Ramirez said.
Reed opens the season with a scrimmage Saturday against its alumni. Ramirez said this might be the first time her team loses against the alumni.
The regular season starts Tuesday against Galena, and then Reed will take on Reno a week later in its second game, which makes Ramirez a little nervous. The Raiders would have played Douglas in the first week of the season also, but that game was rescheduled. Galena also tried to postpone the game next week, but there was no way Ramirez wanted to open the year against the Huskies without knowing what her team can do.
With the season opener right around the corner, the Raiders are excited about trying to defend their regional and state championships.
“Last year was a great year. They just want to do the same again,” Ramirez said. “Their focus is there. It’s not like they’ve relaxed any. They’ve actually had to step up because they know we’ve lost some players and they need to fill those shoes. It’s exciting because the focus is there. Gabby and Tyler are our captains and they want to go right back there.”