Laurel High girls basketball coach Tommy Harrison returns just two starters from last year's squad that lost in the regional playoffs to powerhouse Eleanor Roosevelt High. But the veteran coach is confident point guard Lisa Jing and versatile Megan Brown will be much improved and able carry the offensive load for the Spartans.
"Lisa averaged about eight points last year," Harrison said. "She was under the radar. She has really gotten a lot better. She has really improved."
Brown has also blossomed and, like Jing, has been drawing attention from some small college programs.
"Megan has some interest as well from Division III schools," Harrison said of Brown, who averaged about 13 points and 14 rebounds per game last season.
The 5-foot-9 Brown is the tallest player on a Spartan squad that was 14-10 last season.
"We are going to have to be very scrappy," said Brown, who has also played four seasons of volleyball at Laurel. "We are going to have to get our quickness back."
This past summer, Brown played for Love Elite, an AAU team that practiced at St. Vincent Pallotti High under coach Russell Davis.
As a senior, Brown will have no problem taking on a leadership role and working with younger players who have moved up from the junior varsity team.
"Any questions they have I will be there to answer," she said.
One of the four seniors lost to graduation was Shayla Jenkins, currently a 5-foot-4 freshman guard for Division III Hood College in Frederick.
She played in three of the first four games and had two points and four rebounds.
Trying to make up for the loss of Jenkins are players promoted from the junior varsity.
The other three starters in the first scrimmage were junior forward/guard Omasan Uyebi, sophomore guard Jamonie Lindsey and junior guard Keiara Williams.
"We have a lot of young players but I am expecting a good season," Jing said.
"It is a rebuilding year, I believe," Harrison said. "We will be competitive. With teams that have height, we may have a lot of trouble. We have to work on rebounding."
Key reserves included Nayieh Miller, a freshman backup point guard, sophomore post player Grace Onuma; and freshman forward Keyona Biggs.
In Laurel's first scrimmage they faced a tough Archbishop Carroll squad.
"They have been together for awhile," Harrison said of Carroll, part of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC). I knew they were good."
Laurel allowed nine three-pointers and lost by 13.
"We only had three days of practice," Harrison said.
Laurel faced Hammond High of Columbia in a scrimmage on Nov. 26 and won 50-43.
The Spartans are slated to open the season Dec. 10 against High Point at Ernie Welch Gymnasium.
"I believe we are going to be okay defensively," Harrison said. "We will be able to play man-to-man more."
But Harrison is not sure how much man defense the team will play, based on how the game will be called by officials.
"We are not allowed to hand check. I am not sure how they will call it," he said.
Harrison, in his 13th season, said some of the top teams in the Prince George's Class 4A league will be Flowers, Wise and Roosevelt, among others.
Last year, Laurel knocked off host Suitland in the regional playoffs as Jing had 16 points and Brown had 11, but they fell to Roosevelt after a tight game at halftime.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun