Losing a player who scored more than 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds per game was expected to cause a dropoff in production for California’s girls basketball team.
The Trojans have just one returning senior on this year’s team, which is trying to reach the WPIAL Class A playoffs for the second year in a row.
Having a 6-1 freshman who is averaging 16 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks per game has helped ease the sting. Kylie Huffman has stepped into the Trojans’ starting lineup and made an immediate impact for coach Chris Minerd’s team. California (6-3) entered Thursday night allowing just 32.2 points per game – second best in Class A – with a starting lineup featuring Huffman and two other freshmen.
Jenna Miller is averaging 7.8 points as the starting point guard, but a change is on the horizon. With a freshman-heavy lineup that is experiencing growing pains, Minerd has opted to move Miller to shooting guard and is looking for Huffman to use her scoring touch more often. The Trojans are averaging just 40.6 points per game. With Huffman shooting 48 percent from the field and only taking 13 shots per game, Minerd needs his standout player to take control of the offense if California is going to overtake defending Section 3 champion Avella.
“I’d like to see (Kylie) shoot the ball more,” Minerd said. “She is only shooting 13 times a game and that is not enough for this team. I think the reason she is not shooting is it’s that freshman thing. She’s kind of afraid to take the lead. All of the good players have to have that selfish streak in them at times. She needs to develop that, but it can be difficult to tell a 14-year-old girl to do that.”
Next week will show whether the Trojans are ready to take a step forward. California plays five games in eight days, each a section matchup. With their eye on a section title, the Trojans’ postseason fate could be determined in the coming week.
“Basically, I just told them that to play five games in eight days is going to be a challenge,” Minerd said. “There is very little room for error. To have a chance to win the section, we are going to have to win four or five of those games. If we lose a few now, the second time around against those teams might be a lot of pressure for a young team like this to handle. We have to focus on who we are playing.”
Kobrys decision looming
Fort Cherry senior running back Koltan Kobrys is used to being overlooked. Standing 5-8 and weighing 190 pounds, Kobrys was one of the smaller backs last season. He was coming off a devastating back injury that ended his 2012 season, and 2013 would be his first full year as the Rangers’ starting tailback. The adversity did not matter.
Kobrys answered with 2,262 rushing yards and averaged 10.7 yards per carry. His rushing total was the second-best in the WPIAL and his jaw-dropping, power-running style led him to be named Black Hills Conference Offensive Player of the Year. With those numbers, one would think that college coaches would be lining up at Kobrys’ doorstep. Unfortunately for him, coaches often determine a player’s merit based on size rather than results.
Kobrys has garnered interest from Waynesburg to play running back, while The Citadel likes him as a slot receiver. The position switch is not a sticking point. Kobrys played wide receiver during his first two seasons at Fort Cherry and lined up in the slot regularly for head coach Jim Shiel this past season.
Shiel, who coached 11 seasons in Virginia, called Kobrys one of the better players he has ever coached.
“I have had kids who ran faster, but his vision and ability to cut is special,” Shiel said. “There aren’t too many that come along that have the vision and can make the cuts that he was able to make without really slowing down. He is making these cuts going full speed.”
McKenzie is Blacksburg bound
Washington High School’s Shai McKenzie finished his high school career Tuesday and is starting classes at Virginia Tech next week. McKenzie, who rushed for 650 yards and 11 touchdowns before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the Prexies’ Sept. 13 win at Charleroi, is one of two running backs the Hokies already have in the 2014 class.