For Chimeras, Not Just A Foolish Dream

Posted: December 16, 1987

Willingboro girls' basketball coach Deniece Gray knows there's no substitution for experience, but she is hoping her Chimeras will go a long way on talent this season.

The Chimeras lost three key starters to graduation, but will have a host of talented newcomers who are capable of carrying the team to a .500 or better record.

"Hopefully, we'll qualify for the tournament," Gray said. "We do have some inexperience and we do play in a tough league. But we can make up for it if we mature fairly early in the season. It's all up to the girls and how hard they decide to work."

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.

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