By David Pan Enterprise sports editor
The Jackson girls basketball team may have lost one of the best players in school history to graduation, but the Timberwolves still figure to be a strong playoff contender next season.
The departure of guard Erin Feeney means the Wolfpack offense will have a different look since she was the team’s leading scorer. Feeney will be missed not only for her offense.
“She has good floor leadership and intensity,” said Jackson coach Jeannie Thompson. “She was an amazing scorer. We’re definitely going to have to replace her scoring.”
Junior-to-be forward/center Kristin Stoffel likely will see an expanded role in the offense. Stoffel, the team’s second leading scorer, has started for the last two seasons. Teammate Leigh-Ann Haataja, a senior-to-be center, gives Jackson a strong one-two inside punch.
Stoffell, however, is a versatile player and Thompson plans to have her also play guard next season.
“I hope over the summer she really works on her guard game,” Thompson said. “We did a little bit of that at the end of the year because of injuries. … It’s a big factor to step out to the wing. We can create different match-ups.
“We’re going to see how much we can develop that.”
Haataja brings athleticism to the Timberwolves.
“She’s a great shot blocker,” Thompson said. “She does a great job on the offensive glass. She can take it pretty strong to the basket.”
Haataja also has developed a solid 10- to 15-foot jump shot.
Two other key returners are twin sisters Megan and Kaitlyn McArthur. Megan was the Wolfpack’s off-guard, though she also ran a little bit of the point.
“We’re going to see if we can get her some opportunities to score,” Thompson said. “She’s one of those kids who are very steady and very smart.”
Kaitlyn played more of small forward position last year.
“She’s a really good defensively player and a good rebounder,” Thompson said.
Still, with the graduation of Feeney and Chanel Sam, the focus in June was taking a look at the team’s guards and working on their development. Thompson and her staff had their first look at some up and coming talent last month as the Timberwolves played in two tournaments and also a summer league run through Washington Prep Basketball.
“We ran things a little differently,” Thompson said. “We had so many young kids coming into the program. Even though we graduated four seniors, we had a lot of kids coming back. We had a different lineup every week. … We were just trying to get the kids playing time.”
“It’ll be interesting to see how our team shapes up. We have some young players coming in, both incoming freshmen and sophomores.”