Battle of big-time schools, big-time names

Game 12  JAN 16 SUN 7:00 pm   Toledo Start Spartans vs duPont Manual (KY) Lady Crimsons

By Dave Mast

When duPont head coach Stacy Pendleton heard about Classic in the Country from Martin Clapp, one of the Purdue University coaches who was scouting the Lady Crimsons, he knew he had to check it out. “He told me that I needed to do whatever I had to do to get into this thing,” said Pendleton.

He did, and Classic co-director Tom Jenkins is always thrilled to bring in out-of-state teams that are the premier programs in their state.

duPont Manual, out of Kentucky, will bring with it an incredibly gifted group of talent, since Pendleton has all but one of his kids back from a 24-6 season last year. Older and wiser, this team is athletic, plays fast, pressures the ball end-line to end-line and is nine deep. The only pressure facing Pendleton to begin the season is who he will run out there as his starting five.

“I’ve got so much talent here that I don’t know who to start,” said Pendleton. “That’s not a  really bad problem to have, is it?”

One of the sure things is April Wilson, a junior point guard who is already committed to playing at Purdue University. The other is Mechael Guess, a senior who was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder last year, who will be paying volleyball at Pitt next season.

“Mechael is a savvy veteran player, a lefty with a motor on her like no other. When we need a set play, we go through Mechael, and it usually begins with April.”

Pendleton said that he also has six other Div. I / mid-major prospects garnering playing time, so it should be a fun season for the Lady Crimsons. However, knowing the talent level, Pendleton went out and scheduled games in three of the top 15 tournaments in the nation, as well as the two top tournaments in Kentucky, so his team will get tested.

“We’ve got a great opportunity in front of us, but we haven’t done anything yet,” said Pendleton. “For the most part, we will play our game this season and make teams beat us at what we do best.”

That will be the goal of Toledo Start, a team loaded with athletes who may be able to match duPont Manual’s athleticism.

“Start is one of those teams that is capable of beating any team at any time,” said Jenkins. “They are extremely deep and probably match up with duPont Manual as well as any team here. It should be a great clash of two of their respective state’s teams.”

Start will bring out senior point guard Maleeka Kynard to try to navigate the Lady Crimson’s intense defensive pressure. With 6-2 Azia Bishop, who ironically is heading to the University of Kentucky next year, and 6-4 CeDra Evans, a junior being wooed by the University of Texas, they will have the height to compete. Ariel Gaston, a senior transfer from Sylvania Southview, is head coach Bob Brown’s most gifted athlete, something that his Spartans will need in this contest.