Freshman point guard Mikayla Venson handled the ball during Monday’s practice before cutting loose with a pass that drilled a senior teammate in the face. With the start of the 2010-11 season approaching, the play was a reminder for each Patriot to be prepared when their young floor general has the ball in her hands.
The Yorktown girls basketball team returns seven athletes, including three senior starters, from a squad that reached last season’s regional tournament. However, the Patriots’ on-floor catalyst this year will be the newcomer Venson, whose passing skills can leave an opponent — or a teammate — looking silly.
"She’s one of the most unselfish and humble players I’ve ever seen," second-year Yorktown head coach Dave Garrison said of Venson. She is a "very gifted point guard. She sees the floor well [and] can make the pass from any position."
Venson is arguably the most talented player on a team that includes a trio of returning all-district starters. She said the competition level and speed of the game at the varsity level is greater than what she’s experienced, but Garrison said the freshman is ready for action. Venson added she doesn’t feel pressured to prove she belongs among veteran Patriots.
"I like to try to be the leader on the floor because I’m the point guard, but I like to work as a team and [my teammates are] always pushing me," she said. "I don’t have to prove myself to them, but I always have to make sure I’m on top of my game."
Venson will have several weapons at her disposal. Senior guard Peyton Lee was a first-team all-National District selection last year and is the Patriots’ top 3-point shooting threat. Lee will also be looked to for leadership.
Senior forward Lena Negri, a second-team all-district selection as a sophomore, received honorable mention as a junior. The 6-foot Negri is a threat to score in the post and is one of the team’s best rebounders. She spent the offseason working to prove her all-district demotion was unwarranted.
"If she can play smart on the defensive end, she should average a double-double," Garrison said. "If she can cut down on the silly fouls, [she will be a standout]. That’s something she’s working on every day and I know that she will improve upon.
"She’s put in the work to be an elite player in the National District."
Senior forward Brooke Huffman received honorable mention all-district accolades last year and is one of Yorktown’s best defensive players.
Seniors Kelly John (guard) and Nisa Usman (forward), juniors Emily Rebh (guard), Tricia Leano (guard) and Florena Makuiza (forward), sophomore Tierney Patton (forward) and freshmen Hayley Molnar (forward) and Brooke Maloney (forward) will compete for playing time.
Negri and Garrison each said the Patriots have a better understanding of what is expected of them as their head coach enters his second year with the program.
"We’re a lot more used to him, now," Negri said. "It’s nice. We know what he wants us to do, so we’re not getting scolded and yelled at. We know what we need to do and know we can’t goof around."
Yorktown lost only one senior from last year’s team. The Patriots have talent, experience and desire to make more noise the postseason. Now they have to put it all together.
"I think we can possibly win districts, hopefully get a banner up because we don’t have any girls basketball" banners, Negri said. "We know how each other plays, we know where we’re going to be on the court, who to pass to, who to look for. It’s a lot better with good team chemistry."
Yorktown opens its season on the road against Robinson at 7:45 p.m. on Dec. 1.