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Jackson girls basketball return pieces from district title team for new coach

Three-year starter senior guard Holland Guilliams helped the Jackson girls basketball team win its third-straight district championship last fall. Photo by Nick McNeal

This winter after claiming a third-straight district championship last season, the Jackson girls basketball team will have a different head coach for the third time over the last five years.

Stepping into the position will be former Perryville coach Angela Fulton, who served as an assistant coach for the Indians last season. As the head coach of the Pirates, Fulton led Perryville to win three-straight conference championships and finished with an overall coaching record of 66-58 (.532 winning percentage).

“I’m ready and excited [to be a head coach again], but I’m mostly excited for the girls,” Coach Fulton said. “The whole reason I coach is my love and passion for the game, so to be able to carry that over to them and see their energy level and love for the game grow is what it’s all about.

“Just watching them grow as people and teaching them that, ‘What you’re doing here is going to carry over to the real world.’ I love the game, and I love coaching. These girls here are the reason why people coach.”

As an assistant serving under former head coach Adam Stoneking, who stepped down from the job to take an administrative role with the school district, Coach Fulton helped lead Jackson to win its ninth district title since 2011-12. The Indians 2022-23 campaign ended in the state quarter-finals for the second-straight season to Eureka 54-38.

“We’ve got a lot of kids who have been hard working and it’s kind of something [Stoneking] instilled in the program when he was here,” Coach Fulton said. “It’s something that I want to continue to build, so I’m excited. Am I nervous? Yes, I’ve got big shoes to fill.

“I’ve got the mix of nerves and excitement at the same time, but I think once games are going everything will flow. I’m very loud, and I get very excited. It’s a different voice and different style [for the players] but same concept. Everything else is the same, but it’s just different on how it’s approached.”

Now that she’s back as a head coach, Fulton is excited for her first year at the helm for the Indians with the two starters she has coming back from last season. These players are SEMO All-Conference and Class 6 District 1 All-District selection junior guard Camryn Alsdorf and three-year starter senior guard Holland Guilliams.

Alsdorf paced a player like two-time all-state selection Katie Waller last season, who finished as one of Jackson’s all-time leading scorers with over 1,000 career points. To be on the all-conference and all-district team with Waller, Camryn averaged 10 points, six assists, five rebounds, four steals and one blocked shot per game.

This will be Alsdorf’s second year in the Indians starting lineup as she proved to arguably be the team’s top players on both ends, even while sharing the court with an all-stater like Waller.

“Camryn is like Katie and brings so much to the court for us,” Coach Fulton said. “She’s got that defensive presence that’s just hard to get passed. We laughed today because there was a pass that looked like it was wide open, but here comes Camryn’s arm. She’s that pest that just doesn’t go away.

“Then you turn around, and she’s making moves to the basket where you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ She’s been seeing the floor very well, is very unselfish and distributes the ball well at the same time. She knows exactly when she’s supposed to shoot and defensively she makes sure she takes care of business.”

As for a talent like Guilliams, who will be playing Division-I college volleyball at Southeast Missouri State next school year, she will be back as Jackson’s point guard. Holland scored a game-high 25 points off six 3-pointers in the Indians 53-41 win over Fredericktown to start the season on Saturday.

Guilliams is a player who former coach Stoneking said could’ve easily started as a freshman, so Coach Fulton is more than excited to have a player with her experience and athleticism leading her team on and off the court.

“Truth to be told, Holland and Payton [Gannon] are our leaders — their presence in the gym and on the floor changes everybody’s,” Coach Fulton said. “Holland is that go-getter — as much as we try to give her days off, there’s no days off for that child. She’s going to give you everything she has, but both Payton and Holland bring that positivity and energy that carries over.”

Jackson would’ve returned another starter in senior Nadia Wasilewski, who will also play D-I volleyball at Wichita State, but she decided to forgo her senior year of basketball to primarily focus on preparing herself for college volleyball.

The Indians certainly would have profited from having a 6-foot-1 presence like Nadia, but thankfully they return a 6-1 player in junior post Katy St. John. Like Guilliams and Wasilewski, she will also be a future D-I volleyball player as she’s already received an offer from SEMO.

Even though St. John wasn’t a starter last winter, she still saw time off the bench to gain some experience playing down low on varsity. Katy will be the only 6-footer Jackson has at its disposal this season.

“Her energy compared to this year from last year — she’s just brought it,” Coach Fulton said. “The energy, her positivity — it’s hard to even explain you just have to watch it. It goes back to that confidence because she is just confident in what she’s doing. Even if she makes a mistake, she’ll just move on. Yes, she gets a little upset, but she’s learned that everyone makes mistakes. She’s a good kid.”

Another player who will be stepping into a starting role will be fellow junior guard Lillie Cole. While she didn’t see a significant amount of playing time as a sophomore, Cole played in the AAU circuit with current WNBA player Napheesa Collier’s team Phee Elite during the offseason.

Lillie is one player who will hopefully help fill the average of 16.5 points per game total left by Waller as Coach Fulton described her as a player who can score on all three levels.

“You lose [Waller], that was a lot of points, but the best part is we have girls who can put those points up,” Coach Fulton said. “Lillie has been shooting the ball really well and has improved a lot from last year. Confidence wise, you can see she’s grown so much just by playing [AAU].

“She’s been phenomenal and is one that’s going to give you everything she’s got. She is very driven — comes in during the morning and shoots. She’ll bring strength [from 3-point range], and she sees the floor very well. She’s very good at decision making.”

Other Indians Fulton expects to make big leaps this season will be players like Gannon, juniors Brooke Balsman, Anandi Treadwell, Addison Criddle, Emmy Gross and Skyler Stroder.

“There’s not one person on the team that I’m not excited to watch play,” Coach Fulton said. “They all bring something special and are all willing to work hard to make us achieve our goals as a team.

“Brooke defensively is just like Maci [Wendel]. Anandi is a great point guard as well — she sees the floor well and creates a lot. If you leave Addison Criddle open, she’s going to knock [shots] down. Payton Gannon’s presence on the floor, leadership and defense — that kid will work her tail off for you.”

Offensively for Jackson, Coach Fulton is preaching to her team to play with confidence, which means shooting the ball when open. She also wants them to, of course, pass when they aren’t and don’t try to do too much. Another aspect Fulton wants to see from her players is for each of them to be a star in their role.

“When you’re out there, let everybody know, ‘Hey, I’m the star in my role,’” Coach Fulton said. “This is what I’m doing — this is what I’m supposed to do.”

As for defense, Fulton wants her team to play with a lot of energy and excitement, and to work hard. She knows this will translate into success as she says, “If you work hard and give effort, the score is going to speak.”

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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