Craig girls basketball team boasts youthful roster
One look at the Janesville Craig girls basketball roster will leave the casual fan thinking the Cougars are in for a rebuilding year.
Coach Kerry Storbakken wonders if some will rub their eyes, certain that they’re looking at the junior varsity roster.
Craig’s list of players includes just one senior and five underclassmen—including a freshman—but the group is hardly thinking about what’s to come over the next few years. The Cougars believe they can compete with the best of the Big Eight Conference right now, and their season begins with a nonconference tilt at home against Oconomowoc today.
“This is not a rebuilding year,” Storbakken said. “I like our team chemistry. It’s one of the closest groups we’ve had. The encouragement and crispness of practices, all that stuff is huge. We’re young, but they played together all summer, and they know each other.”
Alli Calkins, the team’s lone senior, returns for her third year starting at the varsity level. At 5-foot-10, she represents the Cougars’ top interior presence, but can stretch defenses with an outside shot.
“We’re kind of height-challenged a little bit, but that’s OK,” Storbakken said. “Alli Calkins can jump, and she plays like a 6-footer. And our other kids can just run and push the ball. Our job is going to be to do the little things—fundamentals, push the ball.”
That process will begin with second-year starter Alison Hughes. She was a third-team all-conference selection as a sophomore, so there will be no trust issues at the point guard position.
She’ll be joined in the backcourt by sophomores Anne Schumacher and Delaney Schoenenberer, a pair that stood out at the JV level a year ago.
“Defensively, they get after people with their speed and quickness, and we’ll make up for the height,” Storbakken said. “We’ll be pressing and pushing. We have to get after teams and not let them walk up the court and pound it inside.”
Aleyha Slatter, a junior returning starter, will round out the starting lineup to start the year. She, Calkins and Hughes are the team captains and provide solid leadership for a young team.
Junior guard Sydney Cramer may be the first substitute off of a bench that Storbakken expects will run deep. Other junior returning letterwinners include Maggie Stewart and Betsy Ennis, and classmate Amber Krueger joins them this year.
Sam Pierson is the lone freshman on the roster, which also includes sophomores Kamryn Brittingham and Nikki Foster.
“They can all be in there making a contribution,” Storbakken said. “We’re going to play a lot of kids, and we’re going to have to keep fresh.
“You want to finish in the upper (half of the conference), and I really believe this team can do that.”