Gone are the days when a high school basketball program, or any other sport, could start at the beginning of the season and expect success.
It's one of the principles Port Allen coach Kim Cox embraced and carried over to her team. Judging from their showing at the start of the season, it could make a big difference this year, she said.
In previous years, Cox had to focus on a "back to basics" approach for her team, but the dedication during the off-season means the Lady Pelicans are ahead of the 8-ball this year.
PAHS started its season in May with summer practice drills, conditioning sessions and summer camps into July. In August, they picked up from where they left off.
"It's a common misconception that you can come in the first week and just start winning," said Cox, now in her fourth year at the helm of the Lady Pelicans. "If you don't work during the summer, you get behind even before the season starts."
The Lady Pelicans could reap dividends off the time investment, and age may not matter.
Braylah Pierson, a 5-foot-7 eighth grader who will start at point guard, could make a huge impact. She played AAU and had an impressive showing in middle school ball.
Her performance last year was impressive enough that she received offers from powerhouses such as Mentorship Academy and University High, but passed on the offers to play in front of the hometown crowd at PAHS.
"That was huge for us," Cox said. "You don't see that very often."
Cox also sees plenty of potential from senior Chelsea White, a 6-3 center who averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds per game.
"She will likely pick up from where she left off last season," Cox said. "She's a great athlete."
Other standouts will include 5-9 junior Maya Lee, who can play in virtually every position, as well as 5-6 senior Peyton Christopher, who will add spark to the defensive play for the Lady Pels.
PAHS could also benefit from freshman Alaysia Percy, a 5-7 guard, who will see a significant amount of playing time this season.
Consistency in leadership could also play off for Port Allen, where Cox has guided the Lady Pels during lean years before they reached the playoff last season.
"When I started, I came in with a plan of building a program, a winning tradition, coming into the system, I had a plan and knew it would take about three years .... I'm at a point where I have my system and the kids trust me," she said. "This year, even though we're young, we have a core ,and it's about kids buying in and showing up for workouts, trusting coaches, trusting me and Coach Leonard Parker, giving them what it to be successful, and trying to come in and maintain a solid program, and not to put too many high expectations. I just want them to do what they're capable of doing and do it well."
Parker also makes a big difference, Cox said.
"To have Coach Parker with his 20-plus year experience is a great asset because work so well together and have this great vision for kids," she said. "It goes beyond basketball for us -- it's about what do you do after basketball to be a productive member of the community."
Cox is also enthusiastic about the hoops on the Westside.
"Brusly has a good team, and there's always some kind of strong rivalry," she said. "But we carry on, we support each other and do what's best to make basketball great on the Westbank."
Edited copy to conform to AP style from several contributors.
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