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Over the past two basketball seasons, under the leadership of Randy Brooks, the East Oktibbeha Lady Titans surged back into relevance in Class A hoops.
On the heels of a disappointing 7-18 campaign in 2008-09, Brooks took the reins of the program the following year, put together back-to-back winning seasons and began laying the foundation for another championship-caliber team, much like the school boasted in 2006-07.
In February, however, Brooks made the decision to step away from the Lady Titans, choosing to place his full focus on his responsibilities as East Oktibbeha's football and track coach.
Enter Barnett Robinson, who also serves as the head boys basketball coach at East Oktibbeha, to help keep the Lady Titans' momentum rolling.
"I'm going to be busy," said Robinson on Thursday after a summer league game at the Starkville Sportsplex Gym. "It's a new experience for me because this is my first time coaching girls. It's a little different coaching girls, but we've still just got to all go out and continue to work hard."
Hard work definitely paid off for East Oktibbeha last season. The Lady Titans went 19-10 overall in 2010-11 and won their division with a perfect 10-0 mark.
That success was built, in large part, around Shondra Nichols and Kelcie Lanier, who have now graduated and moved on, but Robinson still boasts much of the same talent from last year.
Robinson says it's now on each of the returning players to advance their individual games to take up the slack left by their former teammates.
"It's different when you don't really have to do a lot," said Robinson. "But now, a lot of the girls just have to step up."
One of the players Robinson is looking to for production in the coming season is junior-to-be Chansity Evans.
Evans says she knows more is expected of her and her teammates to shoulder the load that Nichols and Lanier once held, but indicated all the Lady Titans are prepared for their roles.
"There's really no pressure," said Evans. "We've just got to keep on with our hard work and work on fixing our mistakes. But we'll definitely miss (Nichols and Lanier)."
Aside from adjusting to basketball life without Nichols and Lanier, there's also the factor of getting used to a new coach.
Evans says it hasn't been too hard of a process.
"(Robinson and Brooks) are both about the same," said Evans. "They both want what they want, and they want to win. Robinson though, he sits back and tells you your mistakes and stuff. Coach Brooks, he was always telling us right then, hollering and stuff, so that's a little different."
As Evans and company continue to learn and progress with their new circumstances, Robinson is preparing himself for his new role.
While he wholeheartedly admits he's in unfamiliar territory, Robinson fully believes he and the Lady Titans are capable of building on their recent success.
"Everybody has just got to step in and do their part," said Robinson. "We've got to just build on what we already have. But the very most important thing is that we just continue to work hard."
(Editor's Note: This story is one in a continuing series updating area high school basketball teams participating in the summer league at the Starkville Sportsplex. On Monday, the East Webster boys will be highlighted.)View more articles in: