AVON — Riverside High School basketball players Shakera Stewart and Jonathan Richardson will both have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders this season.
Stewart, a junior on the girls team, and Richardson, a senior on the boys team, are both expected to be veteran leaders for the Bulldogs when their seasons tip off on November 9.
Both Stewart and Richardson say they understand the challenges that lie ahead for them, but they are each welcoming the opportunity to shine.
“This season is going to be all about hard work,” Richardson said. “The biggest thing people don’t know about our team is how hard we are willing to work. We want to be the best team we can be, and it is my goal to provide leadership to help us achieve our goals.”
Perhaps no Bulldog player, boy or girl, will have more responsibility than Shakera Stewart,
Stewart was one of the cornerstones of last season’s successful Lady Bulldogs team which finished 17-7. Stewart averaged 12.8 points per game last year as she played side by side with senior leaders Amiyah Staples, and her sister, Kewanna Stewart.
Now, that Kewanna and Staples have graduated, it is Shakera’s time to lead.
“One of the best things about Shakera is her leadership, and her command of the floor,” said Riverside girls coach Johnny Bley. “She has the ability to change the game at any moment.”
Said Shakera, “I am going to have to play with a lot of heart every night because I know that my teammates are going to need me.”
Bley, who is also the defensive coordinator on the football team, was hired this summer to replace former Riverside girls coach Denise Tyler who is now the athletic director at South Delta High School.
Bley, 61, has previously coached at Simmons High School, St. Joseph Catholic School and Greenville Christian School.
In order to be successful this basketball, Bley said players like sophomore point guard Haleigh Glichrist and junior post player Sarah Davis will need to step into leadership roles.
“They are going to have to play well because we will not have a lot of experience on the team,” Bley said. “Because of this, I am even going to have to move some eighth graders up to play for the varsity team.”
Entering his second season as the head coach of the Riverside boys basketball team, Eddie Wade said he is optimistic about what his team can achieve by the end of the year.
“I would love to make the postseason,” Coach Wade said. “I think last season was a great year in that the players began to play the way I knew they were capable of playing. We began to control the tempo of the game, which is what we need to do to be successful.”
Along with Richardson, Wade said Jay Humphrey, D’Vonta Gaston and Myles Edwards are also expected to take on bigger leadership roles this season. Coach Wade said he also would not be surprised if sophomore Johnny Williams had a breakout season.
While Wade is expecting a lot from his team this season, he said he understands it may take some time. Wade is unable to field a full practice session because many of his players are still in the final weeks of a football game.
“At a small school like this, we have to be willing to share players with other sports and that is OK,” Wade said.