Darton women's hoops hopes youth prevails in 2010-11

Photo by Mike Phillips

Photo by Mike Phillips

ALBANY - Darton's D'Arcy Williams can handle the press, so the pressure that comes with being the only returning starter for the Lady Cavs this season should be no problem.

"Yes, it's a lot of pressure," said Williams, one of only three sophomores on a young Darton team that has started the season 2-1. "I'll get used to it."

Williams is charged with running the point and helping direct a Lady Cavs' youthful cast that is expecting to improve as the year progresses.

"It's good to have a point that's a sophomore," Darton women's basketball coach Laura Blackwell said. "D'Arcy is kind of leading the way."

So far, the former Lowndes High star has done the job. She and freshman shooting guard Christina Brown have averaged 10 points, five rebounds and two steals through the first three games.

Blackwell is thankful for the sliver of experience that's back, but it's been a long time since the 14-year, veteran Lady Cavs' coach has had a team so new.

"Not having but one returning player - that's big," Blackwell said. "It's kind of like starting over again."

Darton has tons of depth in the back court with long-range shooters in Williams, Brown and Bryonne Ballard. The post is a little thinner and less experienced after losing Dominique Gilbert (graduated) and Shayla Jester (transferred to Albany Tech).

Sophomore transfer Dorine Minala, a 6-foot-6 center from Kenya, has provided minutes early and recorded 14 and 12 boards in the first two wins. Her arrival was a surprise to even Blackwell.

"When she walked in admissions, they called me and said, 'We've got a 6-5 (enrollee) here that wants to play basketball.'" Blackell recalled. "I said, 'And his name is?' They said, 'Dorine.' Oh, it's a girl. Let me go meet her.'

"She's a presence on the floor that we're working every day to try to improve."

And then there's the hybrid, freshman Jomanda Smalls, who has come in and played nearly everywhere on the court.

"She plays everything - everything but the one (point guard)," Williams said. "She's very athletic."

With a lack of size in the middle, Blackwell has Smalls, who is one of the leading scorers and rebounders on the team, at power forward and center.

The one low point so far this season was a 30-point loss to No. 16 Shelton State, a learning experience for the Lady Cavs against a stronger team early in the season.

"We've just got to be smart with the ball," Williams said. "We've got a young team, so we learned a lot (from that game)."

Darton has also gotten contributions from two locals, freshmen LaKandra Beeks (Dougherty High) and Jasmine Myers (Albany High). Beeks scored 16 points in a win over Faulkner.

Brooks, one of 12 freshmen on the team, said she came to Darton "just to ball out." She and the rest of the youngsters will get that opportunity for the next two years.

"We just need to get them seasoned," Blackwell said.

Darton returns home tonight against Lurleen B. Wallace Community College on Student Night. Tipoff is at 5:30 p.m.

"We've got 250 (students) over in the dorms and we want them to show up and cheer for us," Blackwell said.

Cavalier Arena will unveil a new student section in the stands tonight, plus there will be free food, something no freshman college student can resist.