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Kentucky All-stars girls' squad has Shelby flair

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By Todd Martin

SCHS head girls' basketball coach Sally Zimmerman said she had never seen Raechele Gray so happy.

"When I told her she had made the team, you'd think I'd given her a million dollars," Zimmerman said. "I was extremely pleased with her tryout. As her coach I wanted to talk to her, but I couldn't because of the tryouts. But she played really well, defended well getting a few steals, and she got in there and mixed it up getting some rebounds. She earned her spot on the team."

Gray said just getting asked to the tryout was an honor, but making the team was a dream come true.

"I couldn't believe it at first," she said. "It caught me by surprise. At first I thought she was just messing with me. I felt confident with my performance at the tryout, but at the same time, because this senior class is so loaded, I wasn't sure if I'd make it or not."

The Kentucky girls haven't won since 2005, and haven't swept the series since winning four-straight in 1990 and 1991, but Zimmerman and Gray both think Kentucky has the talent and opportunity to win both games this year.

"I firmly believe we can win both games," Zimmerman said. "Now, we have to put together two good games, but this team has a ton of talent. We're so versatile -- we have players that can play two or three positions and some that can play four different spots. We don't have a lot of size, but we're very, very athletic and we have a some very good shooters."

Zimmerman said that being guard heavy on this year's squad will be an advantage, because of the versatility and the athleticism.

"Our guards can handle the ball and shoot outside, but they also have the ability to post up with their strength and they have great footwork."

On a team full of All-stars every one is capable of putting up big numbers. However, getting the team to work together will be the key.

"We're playing college rules, so we have to have an offense we can run against the shot clock, and we have to be team oriented. But at the same time I have to allow these girls the opportunity to use their abilities. All of these girls have the ability to carry a team, so we have to get them all working together."

Gray led the Lady Rockets as a scorer, passer and emotional source this season, so working with a group of players that also had the same roles for their teams will be different.

"It's definitely going to be a different role than I had for Shelby County," she said. "I'll have to stay in that point guard role, play defense and just try to do things at the right time. I think I'll be more of a traditional point guard, trying to get everybody together on the same page."

The process

Zimmerman said the process of picking the team involves more input than just the thoughts of her and her assistant coach.

Miss Basketball automatically earns a position on the team, and the players of the year from each 16 regions are automatically invited to tryouts. After that the AP and coaches vote for the next 20 tryout spots and then Zimmerman can pick the last four.

To select the team, there is one tryout session on Friday, then two more on Saturday. The coaches of the year from each region attend and those coaches vote the top 10 spots on the team. Zimmerman can then pick the final two spots.

"It's a great process, and I think it's very fair," Zimmerman said. "We get a lot of input from different coaches that are more familiar with different players. It's as good a system as they can put together."

The team

Miss Basketball Tia Gibbs, Butler

Monique Reid, Fern Creek

Ceira Ricketts, Fairdale

Brittany Wilson, Manual

Raechele Gray, Shelby County

Lauren Jones, South Oldham

Kelleshia Cook, Franklin-Simpson

Tacarra Hayes, Marion County

Janae Howard, Owensboro

Chantelle Pressley, Paul Dunbar

Maggie Prewitt, Montgomery County

Lauren Wombles, South Laurel