By JOEL COLEMAN
It has been a couple of weeks now since the East Webster girls basketball team put a wrap on the summer league season at the Starkville Sportsplex.
In that time, Lady Wolverines head coach Mandy Jewell has had the opportunity to gaze into the future and analyze her team's prospects for the upcoming campaign.
What Jewell sees is a team with loads of promise that seems primed and ready for a postseason run.
"Definitely, I think we could see the playoffs this year," said Jewell. "We're young, yes, and so next year may be even better. But this year, yeah, we're looking to make something happen. Our expectations are higher this year than they have been the past few years."
There's plenty of reasons for the optimism in the words of Jewell.
First, the Lady Wolverines lost just two players to graduation following last season – Chelsey Gibson and Swayze Hollenhead.
While Jewell admits it's a blow to no longer have the services of Gibson and Hollenhead, East Webster's soon-to-be third-year head coach says her returning players proved this summer they are more than capable of filling leadership roles.
"I thought (the returning players) did a really good job of taking control of the games and that kind of thing," said Jewell. "I also have some younger girls that are really starting to step up."
One such youngster that boasts plenty of potential is center Quantesha Patterson.
"(Patterson) held her own at camp this summer against anybody she played," said Jewell. "It didn't matter how old (opponents) were or where they were from, (Patterson) did a good job."
If Patterson turns her superb summer into regular season success, she wouldn't be the first family member to excel at East Webster.
Patterson's brother, former football and boys basketball player Ledrick Patterson, led East Webster teams to plenty of wins himself prior to graduating this year.
Jewell says she sees a lot of Ledrick Patterson's qualities in Quantesha Patterson's game.
"If (Quantesha Patterson) needs to, she can take over the game," said Jewell. "She can bring the ball up the floor. She can rebound. She'll make free throws. She's got it."
Couple the emergence of youthful standouts such as Patterson with the talent Jewell already had at her disposal and it's easy to understand Jewell's stance that East Webster is a program on the rise.
Yet Jewell says East Webster's players aren't the only ones who are developing, citing her own growth as a leader as a determining factor for the Lady Wolverines' fate.
"It'll be a lot different this year than it has been in the past," said Jewell. "I'm more confident in myself as a coach. The girls have a lot of confidence in me as far as listening and doing what I ask them to on the court.
"All that should make a big difference from last year to this year."