MOULTRIE – Colquitt County girls basketball coach Rondesha Williams knows there are some big Lady Packer shoes to fill this season after the graduation of Janiah Ellis.
Ellis, who scored 1,317 points in her career, fourth-most in Lady Packer history, is now a freshman playing at Troy University.
When Colquitt County opens its season at 12:30 p.m. Monday against Glynn Academy in the Lowndes Classic, Williams and her team will begin trying to figure out how to replace the 19.8 points a game that Ellis averaged last year.
If she is concerned, Williams didn’t let on.
She said, in fact, “I think we’ve got other irons in the fire to compete.”
The Lady Packers won their scrimmage at Thomasville on Tuesday, defeating the Lady Bulldogs 46-34.
Williams had some of those “irons” in action and she liked what she saw.
“I thought we played well in spurts,” she said. “There are a lot of little things we need to fix, but I was impressed with my girls.”
Gracie Belle Paulk led the Lady Packers with 17 points and could have had more, Williams said.
Carliss Johnson, who averaged 14.0 points a game as a freshman last season, chipped in 11.
Heaven Robinson had seven, Sissy Rowland sank a 3-pointer, and Camille Singletary had two points.
Ameris Johnson had a pair of baskets off the bench. And Keyana Harper, coming off knee surgery, also had two points.
Williams acknowledged that, with the specter of the coronavirus still in evidence, she is heading into the season with caution.
She has previously said that the safety and health of her players is paramount.
“It’s hard to get too excited about anything after what we’ve gone through this year,” she said. “It’s going to be day-to-day. But I am excited.”
Williams is starting her 14th season as the Colquitt County head coach and has posted a 239-117 record. The Lady Packers have won 20 or more games each of the last four years and were 21-6 last 2019-2020.
This season she will have tools she has often gone into seasons without: several imposing post players.
Paulk could be primed for a breakout season after battling knee problems the last few years.
She averaged 5.3 points and 5.3 rebounds as a sophomore last year.
Robinson also could be a force underneath the basket on both ends of the court.
“She has really worked hard to get ready for this season,” Williams said. “She played volleyball this year and I think that has her excited about basketball.”
Harper was developing into a strong player in the paint as a junior last season, averaging 7.1 rebounds before a knee injury shortened her season.
“She just played in spurts against Thomasville, but she did some great things in her minutes,” Williams said. “She just needs to build her confidence.”
Getting the ball to the post players will be a backcourt led by Johnson, who is coming off an extraordinary freshman season.
“She’s our leader on the floor and she is more vocal this year,” Williams said. “And she pushes us on defense. She is going to make us play defense.”
Singletary will be the team’s quarterback.
“She will hit the open player,” she said.
Williams likes the defensive skills of Kelsey Dawson and the court presence of Rowland.
The Lady Packers also head into the season with D’Zeriyah Polite, Jamaya Moore and Karlie McMullen on the roster.
Williams gives much of the credit for the development of the team to assistant coaches Stephanie Cody and Julia Okongwu.
The players and staff expect to be challenged quickly on Monday by Glynn Academy, which was 26-5 and the state runner-up in Class 6A last season.
“They will be a good test for us,” Williams said. “But we will be prepared for every game this season.”