he Texas A&M University-Texarkana's Lady Eagles basketball team is ready to take to the court.
Coach Kevin Dobbs has high expectations for this new team.
"I simply want to be competitive. I don't know if that means 10 wins or 20 wins. We're so young but I think we can be competitive every night. I don't think we're going to get whooped on too many times," he said. One challenge for the Lady Eagles is developing that familiarity that comes from playing together over time and facing game situations together. Their first game is Nov. 1. It will be their first game as a team and the first-ever basketball game at TAMU-T.
"It's a challenge getting everyone used to each other. We are all new and they didn't know each other before this," he said. "I have to sit back a little and let their roles develop. Some of them are leaders and some are more followers. I am asking a lot of them but they're doing it."
Dobbs style of play is fast and furious.
"We're trying to get the whole team used to going uptempo," he said. "I'd say about 60% of the girls have played in programs with this playing style. The challenge is teaching them to go fast but not to be in a hurry."
In practice Dobbs is working with the team on understanding situations, understanding the logic, teaching them to locate mismatches and take advantage of them.
Dobbs said they don't have a true superstar on the team though there are some standouts including Allisyn Rhone, a junior transfer student with great leadership qualities, and Heavunli Reese, a guard from Longview, Texas.
"She's our best player," Dobbs said of Reese. "She's a little guard but she brings a lot of energy to the court and she's lightning fast. She's the best defender on our team if not the best defender we'll see all year."
They may not have a true star but the Lady Eagles are full of quality players who can make game-changing contributions.
"I do have 10 or 12 girls who can score in the double digits on a given night. That is what is going to make us dangerous. We can come at you with eight or nine different people," he said.
As far as size goes, the team may be more David than Goliath.
"We are small but feisty," Dobbs said. "We have one girl who's 6-foot, Naomi Tekleab from Houston. She'll be a starter most likely but, if she's not, she'll get to play a lot. After that we're 5'9 or smaller."
The Lady Eagles play 30 games this year, about half of them at home. Watching the team play is going to be entertaining for fans.
"We haven't played a true game yet but we've had multiple feisty scrimmages," he said. "They're going to be fun to watch. They bring a lot of energy and speed to the court and we play fast. We're going to cut loose a little bit."
Playing basketball at the collegiate level takes a lot of dedication. Not only do the girls have classes, practice sessions and academic responsibilities, they are also required to participate in community service activities.
"We ask them to be representatives of something bigger than themselves," Dobbs said. "We (volunteered) at a half-marathon and we (volunteered) at a church helping with their Halloween carnival. They would like to do even more community service."
Ultimately Dobbs says the success of this year's team won't be measured by its record alone.
"I hate to think of records. I don't want to undershoot what I would consider a successful year, he said. "I think we could be in the upper tier of the conference. If we make it to the top four I'll be pleased, but over the next couple of years I think we can really elevate." n