VANCEBURG – Basketball coaches like their point guards to be an extension of the coaching staff.
Lewis County girls’ basketball coach Jay Fite believes Gracie Yates can be just that as the 5-foot-6 point guard enters her senior season.
“There’s definitely a lot more trust in herself. That’s critical. You want your point guard to believe – we always say be an extension of the coaching or whatever – and that’s kind of what we groom them to do,” said Fite. “The biggest thing with that is the point guard actually believing in themselves to do it. I think early on in her career, in her varsity days, she didn’t believe in herself as much. Now, she believes in what she can do and her abilities and she knows how we want the game played and what we’re looking for in different situations. She’s really grown in that. Her teammates see her the leader on this team.”
Yates has started for the Lady Lions the past two seasons, so she’s familiar of what Fite will be asking of her on the hardwood this winter. Now as a senior, and with last year’s leading scorer and rebounder Abby Pick deciding not to play, she’s stepping into a bigger leadership role with the team.
“I feel like he [Fite] likes me to be the second coach among the girls. I have to be a big leader. I’ve done that in JV and middle school, so I’ve always done that,” said Yates. “I feel like he just looks at me to get his point across to work with me and the girls.”
She averaged 9.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game as a junior, the second-highest totals on the team. With Pick not playing, she and Fite are both hoping those numbers can go up, but are also hoping she can help set up her teammates.
“Gracie Yates, over the last two seasons, has been big for us in every category. She’s either led us in something or been in the top two in about every category. We expect her to continue to do that,” said Fite. “Her biggest job is just taking care of it. We want her to become more aggressive in different ways. She’s going to be looking to score probably more occasionally than what she has in the past, but we’re still expecting her to make everybody better. Everything is going to kind of start with her and spread around her and we’re going to try to get her opportunities.”
Knowing she’ll likely have a bigger target on her back this season, Yates has been in the gym with a focus on conditioning and ball handling.
“A lot of practicing, conditioning,” said Yates. “I’ve been hitting the gym by myself a little bit, getting some ball handling in.”
Her sophomore campaign ended with a 12-19 record after a 63-31 loss to East Carter in the 16th Region quarterfinals. The Lady Lions also advanced to the 16th Region Tournament last year and lost to Boyd County, 73-39, in the quarterfinals. Lewis County ended the season with a 19-12 record.
With her experience, plus plenty of other experience returning in Jalyssa Cortez, Tierra Tully and Allison Voyles – all of whom appeared in every game last season – the team goals, in addition to the individual goals, are set even higher.
“I’d like to bring up my stats a little more – more assists, rebounds and hopefully we can get a district win in, get over 20 wins this season,” said Yates. “That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Lewis County will have a couple more days of preseason to continue to improve and gel together, before tipping off the season at Fairview on Nov. 27.
“I’m just excited to see what this year has in store for us,” said Yates. “I’m just ready for it.”