WARSAW — James Kenan seems to lose more players to transfers than it receives.
Freshman RonNyia Joyner’s arrival brings joy to Kenny Williams.
“She’s the first real point guard I’ve had here,” he said of the Tarboro transfer. “She rounds out what could be a real nice freshman class.”
Five returnees will set the pace for the Tigers, who were 11-12 overall and 5-7 in the ECC last winter.
“We’re young, which is fine by me, and I like the way we’re set up for the next couple years,” Williams said. “I think we turned the corner a bit last year and closed the gap of stainability for the program.”
Williams’ daughter Nora, an all-county first-team selection, leads the pack.
The junior averaged 13.3 points, 9.5 rebounds.
She will play a shooting guard role, although be all over the court.
The most skilled Tiger player will have more help than her two previous seasons as classmate Emma Avent and senior guard Tionna Hill are back to add support.
Avent started last season fast and averaged 7.1 points and 2.1 assists. Avent was a second team member of the Duplin’s Elite all-county squad.
“We’re going to lean on both Nora and Emma and Tionna for leadership,” Williams said. “We did that with Nora and Emma as freshman and sophomores. I feel they will both take it to the next step.”
Senior Dessary Rivera will see extended minutes as well.
Hill (5.3 ppg., 2.8 rebounds) and Dessary are players who can set the right examples,” Williams said. “In practice, games and otherwise. Hill has played multiple positions and is a flexible player who can step into a number of spots. Ideally, I think she needs to be in the three spot (small forward).”
JK’s two tallest returnees could bring an inside force not found in a number of seasons.
Relief is on the way in the form of junior Ta’laizia Newkirk, a 5-11 junior and Azzariayah Harvey, a 5-10 sophomore.
Expect Newkirk (1,8, 5.1 rebounds) and Harvey (3.9, 6.6) to likewise play a notch above a season ago.
“Newkirk is a true five (center) who can protect the rim without getting into foul trouble and play with her back to the basket,” Williams said. “We if can get the ball to her in the low box we can expect a high percentage shot. She’s improved, really adding strength to her lower body.”
Harvey is a key in the paint.
“She’s increased her shooting range and has the potential to be great in the four spot,” Williams said. “She has good footwork and the ability to play in the air.”
Newcomers Tytiana Wilson, Jasmyn Murphy, Kyara Stevens will look to follow the lead of classmate Joyner as up-and-coming Tigers.
“Wilson is a solid sub in the post,” Williams said. “Stevens has promise and raw talent and is attentive and learning. And I love the work ethic of Murphy.
“I really like our freshman class.”
Sophomores Dameona Lassiter and Tasharia Smith rise from the JV ranks.
“Dameona is showing up,” Williams said. “She’s shining in practice and is going to give Azzariayah a push.
“Tasharia has good size and is progressing quickly”
Williams said two weeks of exams and two weeks for the Christmas holiday, and a short season, put the emphasis on improving quickly.
“The season is a sprint,” he said. “It’s a year we have to be adaptable and make the most of everything that is in front of us,” he said.
JK’s first scrimmage will be Jan. 29 against North Brunswick.
“The non-conference season we won’t have would have been ideal for this group,” Williams said. “But instead we are putting things together on the fly.
“We’re a much deeper team this year and are positioning ourselves to be a consistent team.”
The tag didn’t apply last season. JK was as Jekyll as it was Hyde.
“We had a way of playing badly just after playing a really good basketball game,” Williams said.