Woodmen young team but have high hopes

Replacing an Indiana All-Star is tough enough. When that All-Star is one of seven players to head out the door, the challenge is even greater.

Lee Taft doesn’t seem all that fazed.

The Greenwood girls basketball coach has to replace a ton of graduated talent, most notably Holly Hoopingarner, the county’s biggest star last winter and a freshman at IUPUI this season. But Taft is surprisingly optimistic, and perhaps with good reason.

For one, he does have one starter returning in sophomore Alex Kincaid, who averaged 8.8 points and 5.8 rebounds last season. He also gets back junior Leah Moore, who contributed as a freshman before being derailed by injury last season.

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The bulk of Greenwood’s contributions this year, though, are likely to come from its younger players — particularly in the backcourt, where sophomores Bailey Taft and Stephanie DeCastro will take care of most of the ball handling.

There is plenty of potential in the young Woodmen, but Lee Taft isn’t expecting everything to click right away.

“It’s going to be a year where we’re going to just have to kind of figure things out as we go,” he said.

“The neat thing here in Indiana is, all you’ve got to do is get hot at the end of the year — get in the tournament and go. … Here, you can be 0-20, get in the tournament, get a bye, get a lucky draw, and you can find yourself in the finals of the sectional if the ball falls the right way.”

Improvement will be the primary goal during the regular season. Greenwood may not yet be ready to challenge early in the season during the Johnson County tournament, or even during the Mid-State Conference season — but by tournament time, who knows?

Finding scorers will be a priority because the departed Woodmen accounted for more than 75 percent of the team’s points. Hoopingarner’s absence will clearly be felt, but Lee Taft isn’t expecting that void to be filled by any one player.

Hoopingarner’s load, he said, will be shouldered by the entire cast.

“Nobody has to be a hero,” the coach said. “We just need everybody pitching in and doing their job. And we may not score as much, we may not be as fast this year, but that’s okay.”

Greenwood is largely a blank canvas right now. We’ll see what gets painted by season’s end.

Scouting the Woodmen

Coach: Lee Taft

Last year: 15-10 (5-2 Mid-State Conference); won Johnson County tournament; lost to Center Grove in Class 4A sectional final

Who’s back: Ryan Bauer, Alex Kincaid, Leah Moore, Taylor Walker

Who’s gone: Cassidy Branagan, Victoria Byrne, Holly Hoopingarner, Megan Overton, Maddy Renfro, Jae Taft, Brooke Uebersetzig

New kids on the block: Sarah DeCastro, Bailey Taft, Mackenzie Turner

Outlook: The Woodmen were long on both talent and experience a year ago, with Holly Hoopingarner, an Indiana All-Star, leading the way. Now, with seven seniors gone, Greenwood is essentially starting from scratch — but that doesn’t mean you need to feel sorry for Taft. He’s still got one returning starter in Kincaid, another key player returning from injury in Moore and a host of talented newcomers who should be able to contribute. It may take a while for Greenwood to hit its stride, but it could be a threat come tournament time.

Taft says: “By December, mid-December, we’ll start to get a little identity, who we’re going to be, but early on, we’re going to try some things that we did last year and change it up a little bit, and just grow as a team.”

2016-17 schedule

Date;Opponent;Time

Nov. 1;at Bloomington South;7:30 p.m.

Nov. 4;Greenfield-Central;7:30 p.m.

Nov. 8;at New Palestine;7:30 p.m.

Nov. 11;Indianapolis Herron;7:30 p.m.

Nov. 12;Bishop Chatard;7:30 p.m.

Nov. 15-19;Johnson County tournament at Edinburgh;TBA

Nov. 22;Plainfield;7:30 p.m.

Nov. 26;Westfield;1 p.m.

Nov. 30;at Perry Meridian;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 3;at Martinsville;1:30 p.m.

Dec. 6;at Columbus North;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 10;at Mooresville;12:30 p.m.

Dec. 13;Rushville;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 17;at Franklin;12:30 p.m.

Dec. 20;at Indian Creek;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 27;at Brownsburg;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 3;North Central;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 6;Whiteland;6 p.m.

Jan. 17;at Southport;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 20;Decatur Central;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 24;Center Grove;7:30 p.m.

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.