The Troup Lady Tigers came into the 2011-2012 season believing they had what it took to accomplish some special things, and with those expectations came the pressure to win, and win big.
The team met those expectations, winning a region championship and advancing to the quarterfinals of the state tournament.
Things are a bit different this season.
With the departure of three talented seniors, including the dynamic duo of guard Tanisha Jackson and post player Shamiya Brooks, the Lady Tigers aren’t starting over exactly, but they do have a lot of work to do, and the team probably is in rebuilding mode.
With that in mind, head coach Carla Thornton said the idea is to go out and enjoy the ride, whatever happens.
“That’s our motto this year, is have fun,” Thornton said. “Last year, we knew we had the talent, so we had to produce. This year, we know it’s a rebuilding year, but we still want to go out there and have fun and still work hard.”
That doesn’t mean the expectations have lessened, though.
As Thornton said with a wry grin after Monday’s practice when recalling a message she delivered to her players, “listen, the only way I can fun is if y’all win. But I want y’all to go out there and have a good time. There was a lot of pressure last year.”
It’s not like the Lady Tigers are starting from scratch.
Two starters who were instrumental to last year’s success, seniors Jessica Gilbert and Tamayah Potts, are back.
Also returning are sophomore Deaushanique Sanders and junior Sydni Jackson, who both played a lot of minutes last season.
A number of other players, meanwhile, will be getting their first significant playing time in varsity basketball, and Thornton is looking forward to watching those players grow.
“It’s fun developing other players,” Thornton said. “We watch them grow, and now it’s time to do it all over again with some more people.”
While a lot of the players will be new, the Lady Tigers do head into a new season as region champions, and Thornton said that’s something everyone takes pride in.
“We’re still the champs,” Thornton said. “We know we lost a lot, and we know the target’s going to be on our back. But hey, (the championship) is still ours.”