As if Chris Pennamon's first season as Heritage girls basketball coach wasn't going to be enough of a transition, now he'll have to take the Lady Patriot reins without two of his top players. Sisters Truvanni and Geovanni Sims transferred to Milton High School in Alpharetta before the season, which begins Nov. 19, leaving Pennamon with two big holes to fill.
"It was a big hit," said Pennamon, whose in his first season coaching girls after several years on the AAU circuit and the boys junior varsity and freshmen teams the last two seasons at Heritage. "I think for them it probably was the best decision. They have an opportunity to showcase their talent this year and get scholarships, and that's what they're trying to do. I don't want to see them go, but I understand why they left to go."
Along with the transfers, the Patriots also lost guards Shaddai Wiggs and Victoria Spann and forward Jana Dixon to graduation. But the cupboard isn't exactly bare for Pennamon.
Senior point guard Taylor McKibbens and junior shooting guard Breanna Mitchell return to anchor the backcourt, while a quarter of newcomers are expected to contribute. Aujuana Dawkins, a sophomore transfer from California, and sophomore Adelia Hardaway will fill the void in the frontcourt left by the departures of the Sims sisters and Dixon.
Shanique Heard is still recovering from a hairline fracture in her ankle, but once fully healthy should be able to spell McKibbens at the point, and freshman Fredtashia Luttery, a move-in from Ohio, is another young player to watch.
Pennamon is implementing more of an up-tempo style to the Patriots' offense, a year after the team was held to 28 points in a Region 8-AAAA tournament quarterfinal loss to eventual champion Madison County.
"I think we got the pieces," Pennamon said. "Once they understand where they need to be in certain defenses and presses, I think we can be very good on our side of the region. Everything is about running and defense. When new regimes come in, (the players have) been dealing with a program for so long. Right now we're in the process of getting them to buy in. We may take a few lumps early in the season (but) I think we'll be fine."