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Grizzly Cubs have more height but still plan to utilize quickness

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Guard Kylie Whittington is among the top returning players for the Franklin girls basketball team.
STEVE McCLURE | FOR THE DAILY JOURNAL Guard Kylie Whittington is among the top returning players for the Franklin girls basketball team.

During Walt Raines’ previous 24 seasons coaching the Franklin girls basketball team, the Grizzly Cubs’ rosters mostly featured small, fast guards.

But this year’s squad is anything but typical.

“We’re a totally different look of a team,” Raines said. “We’re going to have a lot of size this year, which is something we haven’t had in the past.”

Class 4A Franklin will start three players at least 6 feet tall and returns six letter-winners from last season’s 12-10 campaign.

Although the Cubs will utilize their height with a new emphasis on the post, Raines said Franklin would continue to play a familiar brand of basketball.

“We’re still going to come out and play hard. We’re still going to come out and defend hard and do the things we do,” he said. “We’ll just have to adjust how we approach the game. We were always quicker before. So we’ll just look to attack more in the post.”

Leading the battle in the paint will be 6-foot-1 senior center Kylie Whittington, 6-foot junior forward Vanessa Kinsey and 6-foot-1 freshman forward Whitney Shapp.

Junior Tara Parmer, a 5-foot-4 point guard, and senior Sara VanDeman, a 5-foot-7 shooting guard, return to make up Franklin’s starting backcourt.

Coming off the bench will be returning seniors Danielle Phair and Jayme Vance, and returning sophomore Julia Smith.

Senior Bailey Johnson, junior Brooke Pleak and freshman Maci Eads also will compete for minutes.

With so many potential scorers filling the lane for Franklin, Raines said good ball distribution by Parmer will be crucial for the Cubs.

A third-year starter, Parmer averaged 11.5 points, three assists and three rebounds per game last season.

“Tara is the key,” Raines said. “I truly believe that she’s one of the top 10 juniors in the state. She’s a kid that I think should be a junior All-Star. She’s smart, athletic and a good basketball player.

“Parmer’s got everything it takes, and she will be critical for this team.”

Parmer said she’s embracing Raines’ expectations to execute Franklin’s game plan.

“I’m really looking forward to the season this year,” she said. “I’m really going to have to step up my leading. We have to focus on what we do in practice and carry it into the game, and we’ll be successful.

“I feel really positive on what we’re going to do.”

Kinsey, a third-year varsity member, said she’s eager to contribute as a starter this season.

“Since we’re really focusing on post players this year, I’m just going to try to produce a lot of points and rebounding,” she said.

Despite the taller lineup, Raines said Franklin’s strengths would continue to be team speed and effort.

“The kids work hard; and as big as we are, those kids are good athletes,” he said. “We are very athletic still, but we’re athletic with size.”

Because the Cubs graduated four seniors and are adjusting to a new style of play, Raines said it would be a work in progress.

But he’s confident in Franklin’s foundation for success.

“One of the things that we like to stress is tradition never graduates,” he said. “Our kids that have been around the program understand what we want. We never have to rebuild, we just have to retool a little bit and adjust.

“Our goals are always the same: We want to compete for the county, sectional and (Mid-State) Conference, and I think we can do those things.”

Franklin’s season tips off next Friday at Class 3A Greensburg.

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