While Willingboro lost the likes of Charlene Mills (point guard) and Nicole Smith (center) to graduation, Gray is hoping returnee Bridget Cleveland and newcomer Karen King will keep the program competitive.
The Chimeras will host nonleague rival Camden, a member of the Olympic Conference American Division, on Monday in their season opener.
"We're starting off with a tough opponent in Camden, so we'll see what we're made of," Gray said. "And it won't get any easier when we play the teams in our conference."
COACH. Gray will begin her fourth season as Chimeras head coach.
LAST YEAR. The Chimeras finished with an overall record of 11-11 and a Burlington County Liberty Division record of 8-6.
PLAYERS LOST. Willingboro lost three starters to graduation. They were
Mills, Smith, and guard Donna Stanley. Mills is now playing at the U.S. Military Academy, while Smith is playing for Delaware State.
PLAYERS RETURNING Two starters will return to the Chimeras' lineup - senior forward Cleveland and senior guard Angela Burke.
Cleveland will be a third-year starter. She averaged 10.5 points per game last season. Burke started about one-half of her team's games last season and is expected to see full-time duty this winter.
NEWCOMERS. A host of newcomers will dot the varsity roster. Heading the list will be surprise newcomer King, a 5-foot, 8-inch transfer student who has never played organized basketball until this season. She will start at a forward position.
"It's hard for me to believe that Karen has never played organized basketball before," Gray said. "She has all of the skills and even the maturity level to be a starter."
Other newcomers will be junior center Chezarah Wright, who is 6-1, junior guard Shawn Lewis, senior guard-forward Sally Gallagher, junior guard Shamika Harper, and sophomore guard Tamara Cleveland, who is Bridget Cleveland's sister.
STRATEGY. At this stage, Gray has not devised any specific offensive formations for her team.
"I'm experiementing with different formations to see where our strengths are,"she said. "It looks like we have a lot of quickness, and I'm leaning toward a run-and-shoot type of offense. But I'll wait and see how we look."
Defensively, the Chimeras will make good use of their speed by using
pressure tactics to turnovers. Gray also will experiment with zones and man- to-man alignments to see how well her team executes each.
OUTLOOK. The Willingboro roster will be loaded with inexperienced players, and that will make the going rough during the early part of the season. The Chimeras' early-season schedule, which will include Camden, Shawnee, and Rancocas Valley, will be tough to overcome as well.
"But I feel we have the talent, and I'm confident we will bounce back and make the playoffs," Gray said. "We'll have to take our lumps for a while, but we will improve as the season progresses."
Bridget Cleveland has the potential to blossom into a premier forward. The team's success will hinge on her leadership, especially in the early going. The Chimeras will also need scoring help from newcomers King at forward and Burke at guard to be competitive in the Liberty Division.