By JOEL COLEMAN
If the West Oktibbeha girls basketball program had come into this summer with a theme, that theme would undoubtedly be change.
Following a 2010-11 campaign that saw the Lady Timberwolves claim the No. 2 seed from Class A, Region 4 before being ousted in the first round of the playoffs, West Oktibbeha is now dealing with a pair of major of adjustments after losing Mississippi State signee Shamia Robinson to graduation and gaining the services of a new head coach.
While Robinson exits Maben to suit up at MSU, Danny Crawford is the man left in charge of assembling the team Robinson has left behind.
Crawford, also the coach of the boys program, inherits the Lady Timberwolves from Sheila Bailey, who recently stepped down after four years guiding the team.
Though his new assignment increases his workload, Crawford says he's up for the challenge.
"It all balances out," said Crawford. "The girls have the same schedule as the boys. I just have to work a little harder.
"I'll put a lot more emphasis on my girls because my boys, they return everybody so they should be alright. The boys know what's going on so that gives me extra time to teach the girls."
Robinson's departure creates quite the challenge for Crawford in his first year at the helm.
Aside from trying to develop new talent to provide his squad much-needed depth, Crawford is also preparing West Oktibbeha veterans such as Jaslynn Bedford, Brenisha Brownlee and others for the leadership roles they must now fill.
"There's a lot of pressure on those girls to step it up," said Crawford. "They now have two jobs. They have to step it up and keep us contending, and at the same time, they have to bring along our young players. If they can do that, we're going to be alright."
Tuesday night at the Starkville Sportsplex, Crawford began putting his plans into motion as West Oktibbeha began its summer slate of games against Oak Hill.
Though the Lady Timberwolves came up short in the contest, Crawford stressed that results aren't what is important just yet.
"In the summer, I'm just worried about my boys winning because that's just what we do," said Crawford. "The girls, I've got to teach them a whole system. One thing good about that, girls are five times smarter than boys. That's a huge plus, but for them, this summer isn't about winning or losing."
Through all the learning and adjustments, Crawford says he's using some last minute advice he received from Bailey.
"She told me that girls basketball is going to give me that added patience that I need," said Crawford. "It's the truth. Girls are smarter, but they're not as athletic as boys. So they're going to give me that patience."
"I'm having fun and I'm enjoying it though. It's a blessing, I love the girls and we already all knew each other so this has all worked out."