Naperville Central is hoping to start next season the way it finished the last one.
The Redhawks went 7-4 over the final 11 games of the 2013-14 season, including two losses to DuPage Valley Conference champion Wheaton Warrenville South and a playoff defeat to Oswego East.
“We were pleased with the way we played toward the end of the season,” Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum said. “We hope that springboards into next season.”
But Nussbaum knows the Redhawks, who are coming off a rare losing season, won’t be on anyone’s radar. That’s what happens when you go 12-18 and have to replace two starters who are now playing college basketball.
Naperville Central must replace guard Shannon Ryan, who led the team in scoring and most other offensive categories and will play at Benedictine. She was the team’s primary ballhandler and finding a replacement will be a top priority.
Nussbaum thinks guard Hannah Swarm could fit the bill. The slender junior had a solid sophomore campaign in which she proved to be a dangerous three-point shooter and competent passer.
“We’re really high on Swarm’s ability to handle the ball,” Nussbaum said. “I don’t know if that’s the answer. But there is a potential there.”
The Redhawks figure to be a good-shooting squad again as Swarm and senior captain Emily Kraft return. Kraft earned Naperville Sun Second Team All-Area honors and advanced to the state finals in the three-point shooting contest.
Kraft, who enters her third year on varsity, is a capable leader and tough competitor, qualities that will be highly valued on a team that lost forward Katie Moran, last year’s emotional leader, to graduation. Moran will play for Trinity Christian.
The other returning starter is senior center Haley Minick, who will have her work cut out for her in the paint. At 5-11, she is the tallest player on the current roster.
“Haley showed some marked improvement in her game defensive and offensively,” Nussbaum said. “It’s going to be tough for her. We don’t have any size.
“We’re not terribly big. That is an area of concern.”
The Redhawks also bring back 5-11 senior center Kathryn Aemmer, 5-8 senior forward Casey Smith, 5-9 senior forward Lisa Tassi and senior guard Taylor Stenmark. Katie McBain and Maggie O’Brien were the top newcomers during the summer, but Nussbaum said the roster, let alone the rotation, is far from being determined.
“There’s a lot of spots that are wide open,” Nussbaum said. “So much of it depends on how much time the girls have been putting in during the summer and how much better they’ve gotten with their AAU teams.
“There are some good reasons for some optimism. I think we’ll be able to shoot threes. We’re going to try to make teams play our style.”