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Skinner: We will find a way to replace leading scorer Thomas

ASU women's hoops coach Robert Skinner hated to lose leading scorer April Thomas this offseason, but he has confidence others will step up to fill her void.

ASU women's hoops coach Robert Skinner hated to lose leading scorer April Thomas this offseason, but he has confidence others will step up to fill her void.

ALBANY — What do you do when you lose the nation's No. 5 scorer and your best player to an in-state rival?

If you're ASU women's basketball coach Robert Skinner, you relax and move on.

That's what he is telling his players, who are starting to panic in the aftermath of star guard and Bainbridge grad April Thomas transferring to Valdosta State this summer.

“(Kourtney Alexander and Kedeemya Cooper) both came to me and talked to me and said, 'Coach what are we going to do? Who is going to pick up the slack? Do we have any freshmen coming in who can score?’ ” Skinner said. “And I am just looking up at them and laughing and smiling and saying, ‘Everything is going to be OK. Everything will be alright.’ ”

Thomas averaged 20.2 points per game last year as a sophomore and was the central part of ASU's offense, which had many plays revolving around her outside shooting. She told The Herald earlier this month that she left ASU because she was “looking to play at a higher level to test (her) skills a little more.”

Her departure, however, leaves the Lady Rams with a giant hole in their roster, but it's one that Skinner thinks he has the pieces to fill — and returning starters Alexander and Cooper lead the way as potential offensive leaders next season.

Cooper, a former Mitchell County star, averaged 9.6 points and 9.1 rebounds last season, while Alexander averaged 8.2 points. Both will get more opportunities to score with Thomas and her 17 field goal-attempts-per-game gone.

"Cooper is one of them who can step in and take some of the scoring load,” Skinner said. “And I know for a fact that Kourtney Alexander can. She did her freshman year and was instrumental in our success that season. But I don't need any one person going out and giving me 20 points a night. What I need is a combination of kids who can give me 10 points a game and play disciplined basketball.”

With Thomas gone, the Lady Rams will also revamp their playbook and build it around a balanced offensive attack.

“We will open up our offense a little bit," Skinner said. "We ran a lot of plays for April, so of course we will have to make it all-inclusive now and have everybody taking a part of that scoring. It won't be geared toward one player."

In addition to Alexander and Cooper, the Lady Rams picked up a pair of former Southwest Georgia prep stars this summer in Westover's Ieshia Young and Crisp County's Keidra Green, who both transferred from Florida State College at Jacksonville.

Young was a Herald Super 6er as a senior and was Westover's best defensive player who averaged 12 points per game and helped the Lady Patriots start the season 23-0, while Green led the Lady Cougars to a 2012 Region 1-AAAA title, shocking Young's Lady Patriots in the championship game.

"Young is going to be more of a defensive player and slasher," Skinner said. "I don't expect her to put up a lot of threes. I do expect her to get to the basket and penetrate and kick the ball out. She shoots the ball well from the outside, but she won't put up a lot of threes."

Thomas averaged neared 10 3-point attempts per game and was third in all of Division II in 3-pointers made (3.23) last season, but this winter will be completely different behind the arc without Thomas.

"April was a good kid and a good student-athlete, but it's one of those things where you have to move on," Skinner said. "Like everything else, things will work their way out."