By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – There can be something said for beginning easy, then working up to the more difficult.
Do not tell that to Tupelo High School head basketball coaches Grant Pate and Stephanie Murphy.
Tupelo begins its 2010-11 basketball season Saturday by hosting the day-long Smoothie King Tip-Off Classic, and the season’s schedule features a healthy mix of big schools and Northeast Mississippi rivals. And then the Tupelo teams get into their Division 2-6A dates.
So will the challenges on paper mean smooth sailing on the court for the Golden Wave and Lady Wave?
“We’ll need to find some leadership,” said Pate, who is entering his third season. “We lost three starters, so we’re looking for some guys to step up and lead.”
The Wave, 19-9 overall and 4-2 in the division last season, will be counting on returning senior starters Chris Brooks and Deontaye Ewing for early leadership from the guard position.
Pate will be working senior Shane Butler, juniors Rashon Coleman and Kyle Wilson, and sophomore Alex Foster in combination early to fill the other spots on the floor. Senior Devontay Morris, juniors Chaz Jones and Josh Hamilton, and sophomore Jordan Garmon, will also be in the mix when football season concludes.
Early road-blocks on the schedule include Nov. 13 at Brandon, and hosting Meridian Nov. 20. In division play, Tupelo will have to contend with defending state champion Starkville, which Tupelo defeated once last season.
Ladies look to seniors
The Lady Wave, 18-9 and 5-1 in 2-6A last season, face no less of a challenge.
Junior point guard Antoinette Riddle will be out until late December of early January with an injury. That leaves Murphy with a starting five of seniors Ariel Smith and Dasia Mosley, juniors Chy Cunningham and Faith Cook, and sophomore transfer Casey Marshall.
Murphy indicates that depth should be no problem, with junior Bria Ruff also a possible starter. Juniors Kristen Lockridge and Elise Friloux, and sophomore Ziara Long provide the Lady Wave with multiple combinations.
“We’re not tall, so we have to play hard and play solid defense,” said Murphy, who is entering her fifth season. “With everybody we play on the schedule, there will be no warmups.
“We need to establish a rotation and see what kind team we’ll be.”
Tupelo tips off its season Saturday in its own Smoothie King Tip-off Classic playing Olive Branch. The girls play at 6 p.m. and the boys follow at 7:30.