Wildkits’ future a bit uncertain
Evanston junior Dashae Shumate brings the ball up the court during the supersectional game against Rolling Meadows at Niles West on Monday. | Michael Jarecki ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 1, 2013 7:22AM
SKOKIE — Two teams exited Niles West on Monday night.
One knew exactly where it was headed. Rolling Meadows will play Friday night in Normal for a berth in the state final. And with Jackie Kemph, Jenny Vliet, Ashley Montanez and Alexis Glasgow all coming back, the Mustangs will likely wade deep into the postseason next year as well.
Evanston faces a much more uncertain future.
“We’ve got (junior guard) Dashae (Shumate) and the (Clayborn) twins coming back,” Wildkits coach Elliot Whitefield said. “That’s a nice nucleus. We’re going to need some other players to contribute to really compete at this level.”
With their most talented player, senior center Alecia Cooley, departing, the Wildkits will need to figure out other ways to get the ball in the paint. Shumate, who showed an ability to take the ball to the basket in 2012-13, could be one answer.
“She’s a good player,” Mustangs coach Ryan Kirkowsky said. “She goes strong to the left and she has that left-handed runner.”
Junior guard Sierra Clayborn also brings a lot to the court, particularly from the perimeter, where she swished two 3-pointers against Rolling Meadows. She drew Kirkowsky’s attention as he scouted Evanston in advance of Monday’s contest and she drew a fair amount of praise after.
“(Clayborn) is a great player,” Kirkowsky said. “We saw her light up some teams this year.”
If Evanston showed one weakness in its supersectional loss to Rolling Meadows, it was too much standing around on the offensive end. Given that the Wildkits will no longer have an elite post threat to toss the ball in to next season, Whitefield said that it’s not hard to figure out what Shumate and the Clayborn twins will need to improve upon next season.
“Creating her own shot,” Whitefield said. “Being able to break down a defense and being able to recognize and make good decisions and dishes.”
In the Wildkits’ final act of the 2012-13 season, they were crushed on the glass, as Vliet picked up offensive rebound after offensive rebound for the Mustangs.
“Killed us,” Whitefield said. “That was our number one key: rebounding. We didn’t put a body on anybody.”
Perhaps it’s no surprise then that junior guard Seara Clayborn, when asked what she will be working on this offseason, put rebounding on the list.
Already though, Seara Clayborn and her teammates have gained something from a frenzied night at Niles West. With the stands packed and both student sections raising the decibel level, the Wildkits learned what it was like to play under the lights.
“This kind of reminded me of the New Trier games,” Seara Clayborn said. “This is a game that helped us gain our mental toughness. We’ll be more prepared next year for games like this.”
In that sense, the future of Evanston basketball started in Skokie, where they suffered a 54-31 loss. That’s where their 2012-13 season came to an end and their 2013-14 season began.
“We take this as a learning experience,” Seara Clayborn said. “This is just a lesson learned.”