LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Evanston incoming senior Alecia Cooley knows the Wildkits basketball team will be counting on her even more this season than it did last winter, and she relishes the challenge.
“I’m ready,” said the 6-foot-2 center who participated in the invitation-only Adidas Prospects Camp in Louisville last week. “(Evanston) coach (Elliot Whitefield) talked to me about how I’ll have more pressures because last year we had (leading scorer) Sinclair (Cunningham). But I’m ready to take the responsibility of carrying the team.
“I want to be more dominant. I’m a senior and I’m going to play in college, so I want to be more dominant and take my game to another level.”
At times, Cooley was plenty dominant last season, especially on the boards, where she had games of 22 and 18 rebounds. She ended up averaging 11 points and 10 rebounds for a Wildkits team that went 19-13.
Cunningham’s departure, to Kishwaukee JC, means Cooley will be expected to carry more of the scoring load for the 2012-13 Kits.
Whitefield said Cooley’s offensive skills continue to improve, though she still needs to develop the mind-set of a scorer. The player also will have to adjust to receiving more attention from defenses.
“She has to become more selfish when she gets the ball,” he said. “It might be different this year because she will be double- and triple-teamed. But she’s got to be patient with that. At the same time, she needs to be decisive and have a couple of go-to post moves.
“But she really has improved and is playing big and physical. She’s got a really nice touch and can step out and hit the 15- to 17-foot jumper. She’s working on catch-and-shoot. At the Adidas Camp she played well against some of the better post players. I just think she needs to understand how good she can really be.”
Cooley and Evanston teammate Sierra Clayborn, who will be a junior, both were selected for the Adidas Camp based on their spring performances for Full Package AAU club.
The three-day event, which featured some of the nation’s top prep players, ran July 9-11 at the Louisville Expo Center, next door to Freedom Hall, the former home of the Louisville Cardinals basketball team.
Players attended skills clinics by WNBA coaches before breaking up into teams. Each team played several games, all in front of college coaches. Cooley joined with other Class of 2013 players, while Clayborn was with the underclassmen.
On the last day of the camp, Cooley was selected to play in the all-star game.
“It was an experience to play against lots of different competition and see what girls from around the country were like,” Cooley said. “In the training with (WNBA) coaches, they taught us how to go to the basket and some dribbling, some stuff that opened my eyes. Stuff to practice.”
Cooley said she more than held her own.
“I thought I played pretty well, especially playing with a team of girls I did not know well and had not practiced with. I thought we mixed well and we passed the ball like we were long-time teammates,” she said.
Cooley didn’t offer many specifics about potential colleges, but is reportedly being chased by several Mid-American and Missouri Valley schools.
Next season, the Wildkits once again could rely on the 5-8 Clayborn for her versatility. She played point guard, off-guard, small forward and even some power forward last season. Whitefield said Clayborn’s natural position might be point guard, but he expects to use her where there is a need.
“I see her certainly as a one, but she’ll be able to fill some spots where some of the girls have difficulty picking things up,” he said. “If she has the ball, she can push it up. If not, she can get out wide, get the ball in transition and attack or pull up for a shot. She’s a good defender and in AAU, they put her on the team’s top player.”
The Wildkits also will feature Clayborn’s twin sister Seara, a fine shooter who battled injuries during her first two seasons.