Extras from Cowles, Lady Topper recruits

The Herald ran a story Friday about how the Lady Topper basketball program will look to overcome a shortage of depth at guard next season.

I had the chance to speak with both of Western’s signees for next year, Georgia standouts Mimi Hill and Chaney Means, along with their high school coaches over the last couple weeks.

I thought I would add a few more details from those interviews that couldn’t make it into print.

Hill has range

For starters, it seems pretty clear that both Hill and Means have the opportunity to make an impact as freshmen next season.

Hill, a 6-3 forward from Winder-Barrow High School in Watkinsville, Ga., averaged 16 points and nine rebounds per game as a senior, according to her mother and coach, Brenda Hill-Gilmore.

But Hill-Gilmore said her daughter can also surprise with her outside shooting.

“Mimi has a really good range,” she said. “She’s very capable of stepping out and shooting the 3 – she did that a lot for us this year. But she does have some good post moves as well, so she’ll have a good effect on the team with her abilities.”

Hill said she sprained her ankle two days before Winder-Barrow’s opening game in the Region 8-AAAA Tournament and wasn’t at her best when the Lady Doggs fell to Loganville.

But she was selected to compete in the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association North-South All-Star game on March 21, scoring three points for a North team that lost, 82-79. Means also scored six points for the North.

Hill said she’s ready to get to Western and build on what she called “a pretty good senior season.”

“I didn’t really finish as well as I planned to, but I think I did well on my post moves, I think I played good defense, and I think showed some shooting ability out of the post,” Hill said. “I feel like that will set me in a different position than maybe the other post players, especially with two of their top-shooting guards leaving.”

Means ready to accept role

Means helped lead her Greater Atlanta Christian squad to a Final Four appearance in the Georgia High School Association Class AA Girls State Basketball tournament.

The Lady Spartans lost to eventual champion Vidalia in the semifinals on March 11.

GAC coach Cal Boyd said that Means’ intangibles as a leader and a point guard couldn’t be overstated, but that her statistics also speak for themselves.

Means averaged over 10 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals per game as a senior, according to Boyd.

“She’s all about her team, and whatever she can do to help her team be successful, she’ll do it,” Boyd said. “If it means scoring two points and getting nine rebounds and eight assists and five steals, then she’ll do that. If it means another night stepping up and scoring more points, she’ll do that as well.”

As of now, Means will be one of four true guards on Western’s roster next season, joining seniors-to-be Amy McNear and Hope Brown along with junior-to-be Vanessa Obafemi.

“I know that’s definitely a concern for the team next year – just the lack of guards,” Means said. “Hopefully I can make an impact, and Mimi is a really good post player and outside shooter. I’m definitely going to work on my shooting in July, since that’s an area where they need help.”

No matter how much playing time Means sees as a freshman, Boyd said his senior is the type to take the role she’s given.

“I think she’ll be able to bring quite a bit, even though she’s just a freshman,” he said. “She’s played a lot of basketball over the years and has been in a lot of situations where she’s been successful.”

Cowles excited about both

Western Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles seems to recognize all of the attention that has been paid to her recruiting efforts this spring. After all, there are only 10 Lady Toppers on scholarship right now.

But Cowles said that recruiting is always a 24/7 job, whether you have openings or not.

And Western has some openings. Four seniors graduated and three players – sophomore guard Caitlin House, as well as freshmen guards Lashay Davis and Courtney Clifton – all decided to leave the program during the season.

“When you put that much time and energy into recruiting, you hope those things don’t happen,” Cowles said. “But unfortunately when they do, you’ve got to go to your next game plan. You can never really predict what’s going to happen, but you’ve just got to make sure you’re prepared.”

As mentioned in Friday’s Herald, Cowles said that she hopes to add one or two more guards before next season begins.

But for now, she’s pleased with who she has on roster and the potential of her two incoming freshmen.

Cowles said she has spoken to Hill and Means since Davis and Clifton left the team two days before the Lady Toppers began postseason play, and that both of her signees seemed eager to get to Western and compete.

“I have no doubt that those two young ladies are going to buy in to what we ask of them and need them to do for the benefit of our program,” Cowles said.

-Zach Greenwell

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