KINGWOOD — If you ask Preston High girls’ basketball coach Brian Miller how he plans to replace six players — including three starters — from a team that finished ninth in the state, he’ll be honest with you.
“You know, everybody keeps asking me that, and I’m just like, ‘I don’t know,’ ” said Miller, whose Knights open the season at
7:30 p.m. Nov. 29, against Robert C. Byrd, in Clarksburg. “I don’t have a good answer.”
Preston, which finished 15-8 last season, lost a lot of the talent, and the inexperience is causing Miller to take things slower in practice.
“The group we had last year, out of our 10 varsity players, nine of them were returners, so we could hit the ground running,” he said.
“This year, we’re having to do a lot more teaching. Nine members of varsity are all new and seven are freshmen and sophomores. That’s a lot of going slow, a lot of questions.”
Miller noted his team is skilled, but its lack of experience may cause issues in how consistently it can play at a high level.
“Consistency is the thing,” Miller said. “Last year, going into every night, I pretty much knew what to expect. You kind of knew what was going to happen before it happened.”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work as well with younger players, as they haven’t established that level of comfort on the floor.
“The young ones you have no clue” what to expect, Miller said. “You don’t know which group is showing up.”
However, Miller sees many parallels between his group now and the group that graduated last year, which could bode well for the program’s future.
“If you look back at that group we had last year, we were in the same boat when they were sophomores,” he said. “If this group’s next three years can parallel the last group’s, then I don’t think that’s too bad of a situation to be in.”
The Knights, despite their losses, will return senior Makenzie Friend, who led the team in points and rebounds last year, averaging 17.6 and eight, respectively. Friend should serve as a floor general for the inexperienced Knights squad.
Miller said the change in personnel on the floor will result in a different look than fans of the team are used to.
“We’ve done a few things with the offense. The base is still the same, but we’re not going to be able to do the same things we did last year,” he said.
“We can’t shoot like we did last year. We were 47th in the country in 3-pointers made per game. We can’t shoot like that this year. We’re not going to win the same way.”
Miller said his squad will make up for the lack of shooting threats by taking advantage of hustle plays.
“We’re trying to manufacture points with extra offensive rebounds and getting turnovers on defense,” he said.
Defensively, Miller said he is encouraging his girls to avoid hesitation and go for the ball. He hopes an aggressive, in-your-face style will create scoring opportunities through turnovers and help his team learn not to fear taking risks on the floor.
“We’re going to try and do some different things defensively that we may not have done as much of in the past to try and manufacture more points and attack offensively,” he said. “The main thing is trying to get them to understand that mistakes are going to happen. I’m good with mistakes if you learn from it. Right now, we’re not making mistakes because we’re afraid to make mistakes, and it’s not helping us grow.”