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Breona Hurd, 6’1 Waynesville – Few players can boast that they received a college offer – much less from a D1 school – before they played their first high school game. But that is the case with Hurd, who has been offered by Oklahoma already, back in the fall before the season started. It should be the first offer of many for Hurd, who is a powerful 6’1 and already has a varsity high school physique to go along with rare perimeter skills for a player her size and age and is ranked in the top 25 nationally on ESPN’s 2024 girls rankings. So far, she has lived up to the billing, averaging well into the double figures as her and all state senior teammate and Grand Canyon commit Naudia Evans pose a formidable combo and are much improved from last season’s 5-win team. Hurd is a matchup nightmare for opposing teams with her size, strength, and inside-outside game.
Willow Gideon, 5’10 Rolla – Rolla is one of the top teams in the area and returns a stellar 2022 group from last season, but Gideon has found her way into the varsity rotation thanks to her high basketball IQ and poise beyond her years. She is an excellent shooter from the perimeter and her length gives opposing teams trouble on defense as well as enable her to rebound and score inside. Rolla is a very balanced team with 7 or 8 players capable of leading them in scoring on any given night. In fact, she led Rolla in scoring in her very first varsity game, a win over Sullivan, and then scored 16 to tie for the team lead in scoring in her most recent game, a win over Poplar Bluff. She will still have the typical freshman struggles in some games, but Gideon has a very bright future on the basketball court.
Kya Johnson, 5’6 Kickapoo – Kickapoo lost one key player to graduation and another due to a transfer (who was replaced by 2022 Kaya Goldsby, a transfer from North Carolina and the starter at point guard) but still Johnson has found a role on the loaded Kickapoo squad that has been mostly healthy so far, unlike last season. Johnson did replace an injured starter against powerhouse Incarnate Word at the Ozark Classic tournament and held her own against the tall and talented Incarnate Word squad, making some impressive off the dribble moves to the basket for scores and also knocking down a 3. She has mostly come off the bench in other games but still getting significant playing time and playing well. She is a smart player, strong for her size and age, and able to help with Kickapoo’s ball handling and distribution. Her role should only increase in the coming seasons as Kickapoo loses players to graduation from their stacked 2021 and 2022 classes.
Kylee Scott, 6’1 Carl Junction – There is yet another Scott down in Carl Junction, which isn’t good news for their opponents. The latest is Kylee, who has the same height and strength as older sisters Katie (now playing, and playing well, for D1 Grand Canyon) and Megan, who is now at Mid American Nazarene in Olathe Kansas. So far, Kylee is averaging around 8 points and 10 rebounds per game during her freshman season as a starter and is surely on the same successful career course her older sisters have endured thus far. As her perimeter shooting and overall floor game develops, she will be a force to reckon with these next 3.75 seasons.
Tara Masten, 5’5 Parkview – Masten is a lightning quick point guard who has quickly made a huge impact. A lefty with good handles, she pushes the ball in transition and is tough to stay in front of, able to finish at the rim nicely but also can knock down the pull up mid range jumper. The most impressive aspects of her game so far is her ability to get to the line (over 6 trips per game), a testament to her fearlessness with driving to the basket against older, stronger, taller players, and her ability to chase down rebounds and get steals. So far, Masten is averaging almost 7 rebounds per game on a team with two or three other good rebounders, and is chasing down over 3 steals per game. As her ability to see the floor while dribbling and 3 point marksmanship improves, Masten will soon be one of the most complete players in the area.
Alyssa Joyner, 6’0 West Plains – West Plains lost 3 starters from last season but have quickly assimilated some new younger players into the starting lineup and rotation, and thus far they have performed impressively, to say the least. West Plains lost only two games, close ones to undefeated Carl Junction in the state playoffs and to the loaded Fort Smith Northside team in the Pink and White, but are looking even better this season so far. Joyner has been a big part of that, joining the starting lineup and using both her size and athleticism to score inside, rebound, and create havoc on defense. She scored in double figures in all three games at the Fair Grove tournament, only playing roughly half the game due to blowout wins for the Lady Zizzers, and should soon become a household name in southwest Missouri basketball on the girls side.