Head coach Shrell Chamberlain has struck success in his debut season with the Warriors thanks to a talented young roster highlighted by standout sophomores.
WINTER GARDEN Shrell Chamberlain and his staff of coaches — Joel Vega, Lauren Ashley and Meredith Goodlatte — have a unique dilemma on their hands.
On the one hand, the first-year staff for the West Orange girls basketball team is experiencing surprise success, despite Chamberlain representing the program’s third coach in as many seasons. At the time of publication, the Warriors are 12-4 and 3-1 in their district.
Included among those victories are notable wins against Wekiva, West Port, Apopka and Evans, as well as a tournament championship in Georgia in mid-December.
For these efforts, West Orange was recognized with a No. 9 ranking in the state in Class 9A when the first Source Hoops Girls Basketball Rankings were released Dec. 23.
What’s more? The Warriors’ roster skews young, with a standout core of sophomores serving as one of the main catalysts for the team’s success.
On the other hand, there is the impending opening of Windermere High.
Chamberlain, who came to West Orange after spending time at Olympia and Wekiva as an assistant, estimates he may lose half of the underclassmen in his program when the Wolverines launch their problem — including some talented girls on the Warriors’ freshmen and junior varsity teams.
“That’s going to really hurt us next year — but that’s why we continued to develop the whole program,” Chamberlain explained. “(The situation causes) a lot of different game-planning and building. It’s kind of weird as a coach when you know you have a talented, young group, but you don’t know who’s coming back.”
The unique situation has left the Warriors in a place where they want to win now with the currently constituted group of players, as well as develop players who may be asked to do more next season when some of this year’s players depart.
That is part of the reason why, if you catch a game, you’ll see 15 girls suiting up — and getting playing time — for the Warriors, a number that is high by most varsity standards.
“I believe by developing players and giving them confidence that you’re building the program for the future,” Chamberlain said, explaining his large roster and his efforts to get most or all of the girls playing time. “It gives them that confidence to be ready for any situation.”
It also seems to be working, and the players don’t seem to be mind.
“Honestly, I like it,” senior Ashly Kinney said. “Everybody feels like ‘we played — we all contributed to this win or loss.’”
Kinney, who is in her second year with the program after transferring in from Ocoee, says wins the Warriors are piling up this winter are a bit of a pleasant surprise after the team finished with a 14-11 mark in 2015-16.
“I figured we’d do pretty well, but not as well as we are now,” Kinney said. “I feel like last season we weren’t as together as a team.”
Kinney credits Chamberlain and his staff with creating an atmosphere where the girls have gotten along better than in past seasons. Conversely, on a team with such talented underclassmen, Chamberlain gives a lot of credit to his upperclassmen.
“Our upperclassmen provide leadership — they kind of lead by example on the floor,” Chamberlain said.
The Warriors’ top three scorers — Morgan Beacham, Kyani Moore and Christina Kline — all are sophomores, and for a veteran player like Kinney, it has been refreshing to see the enthusiasm the talented underclassmen have brought with them.
“We all get along and mesh well together — I love how they want to get better everyday,” Kinney said.
And as the Warriors ready for the district tournament, which will begin Feb. 1 at Evans, there is a little credit for the coach, too.
“As a coach, (Chamberlain) pushes us everyday,” Kinney said. “Everyday at practice we get better — he makes sure we get better.”
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].