Last season: 8-22 (lost to Henry Clay in semifinals of 42nd District Tournament)
Coach: Shawn Ransom (third year)
1. Destiny Cozart: Senior who tore her ACL before last season after an All-City campaign as a sophomore. Ransom said she’s still adjusting to wearing a brace. “I think right now with her it’s mostly mental. Everytime you come down you maybe favor it a little bit. She’s coming back to her old form, though, and that brings a smile to a coach’s face.”
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2. Ezzy Ighodaro: Senior point guard who transferred from Paul Laurence Dunbar. “She’ll definitely bring it,” Ransom said. (Note: the original version of this article incorrectly reported that Ighodaro wouldn’t be eligible until January. She will be able to play for Bryan Station immediately.)
3. Carah Burdette: Junior who made all-region team last season after averaging 15.3 points to lead the Defenders. Said Ransom: “She’s a top-seven player in the region as far as preseason goes. Her leadership skills are definitely growing. She was our head and our shoulders last year and kept a lot of things going. ... This young lady has tremendous talent and I definitely think she’s a D-I prospect.”
Others to watch: Zariah Kavanaugh, a senior transfer who hasn’t played organized basketball since middle school but participates on the AAU circuit. “I really like to pass the ball. Before I think shoot, I think pass,” Kavanaugh said of her mentality. Kyrah Hardin, a sophomore guard. “She started varsity as an eighth-grader and freshman and is going to help us tremendously,” Ransom said.
Games you gotta see: Station will see back-to-back 42nd District champion Henry Clay at least twice this season — on the road Dec. 8 and at home Jan. 25. The second meeting, for which Ighodaro and Kavanaugh will be eligible, is likely to be more indicative of where the Defenders stack up in the region.
Fast fact: LaKyesha Stennis, a senior star on Ransom’s first team at Bryan Station, is leading Southwest Tennessee in scoring at 24.1 points a game. She scored a season-high 39 points and hit seven three-pointers in a 98-90 win over Bosser Parrish on Halloween. ... Bryan Station has won two 11th Region titles: 1976 and 1994.
Learning as they went: “Last year we were still getting baptized by fire. I still had a lot of young girls that had started for me as freshmen and progressed a little bit into sophomores. It really hurt last year, one of my starters, Destiny Cozart, went down with an ACL injury. She was pretty much irreplaceable out there on the floor. She was a verbal leader and led us on the defensive end. It was a transition to get some of the girls to pick up where she left off. When the season was winding down, I was starting to see them step up and we ended up in a tie for second place in our district. I was really happy about that.”
On his team: “I’ve got a ton of experience back and that’s gonna be one of the main things that I think that’ll get us over the hump this year. .. I think we’re an exceptionally quick team. ... We try to create chaos on defense. ... This is my deepest team. I feel like we’re easily 9-10 deep so there’s really not a drop-off.”
Building to this point: “When you first take over a job and you see your team near the bottom of the region, you know you’ve got a little bit of work to do. This year coming in we’re near the top. So our hard work over the last couple of years, the ground work, has definitely paid off. .... I really believe we’re gonna open a lot of eyes, not only in the region but hopefully in the state as well. We’re gonna hopefully come in the back door but leave out the front. “We’re gonna make some noise.”
Destiny Cozart: On the school’s reputation ... “We definitely got a bad rep (as a school) that’s not all the way true. ... You can tell the difference a lot of times if you watch a game versus us and then somebody else. It’s kind of sad to say but now we’re kind of used to it so we go into games kind of expecting to get the bottom end of the stick. So we just work harder. It makes us stronger for people to look down on us. And when we win it makes them look weaker. ... I feel like with the team we have this year we can beat anybody.”
Ezzy Ighodaro: On Station’s style ... “Bryan Station’s more fast-paced than (Dunbar).
Carah Burdette: On turning some heads ... “I feel like the last couple of years people have overlooked us and this year we have all the pieces finally. I think Bryan Station has a bad name overall as a school so I feel like the girls’ basketball team can change that this year and bring positivity to Bryan Station.”
Zariah Kavanaugh: On expectations for the season ... “We have a great opportunity to go far. As long as we work off and on court, we’ll be fine.”