The tallest starter for the Newton-Conover Red Devils girls basketball team grew into a new role for the upcoming season. Kadesha Gibbs, a 5-foot-11 forward, has shifted from playing like a small forward to more of a power position — occupied last season by graduated senior Renee Lewis.
“I know I have some tough shoes to fill,” Gibbs said. “I just have to work hard and give everything I got.”
Giving everything includes time in the gym before and after practice doing drills for better footwork and moves she can use as the Red Devils’ primary post player. She also enrolled in a weight-lifting class at the school and going to position camps during summer at Elon and Mars Hill.
“Kadesha really dedicated herself in the weight room this summer, and she is getting a lot stronger,” Newton-Conover head coach Jonathan Tharpe said. “The thing I stress to her is she has to outwork people, and she now is using post moves to be an offensive threat for us.”
Newton-Conover starts its season Tuesday at home against St. Stephens.
Gibbs is also stepping into a leadership role for the Red Devils. She and guard Briana Alston are Newton-Conover’s team captains for the upcoming season. Alston came off the bench last season as a defensive stopper, and Gibbs has started since she was a freshman.
Gibbs, however, is the Red Devils’ only true post player and needs to find a balance between aggressive play and avoiding foul trouble. She said that just comes down to playing smart to avoid that situation.
“For me, I expect a breakout year to show people I am a true post player,” she said. “Last year, I felt that people did not see me as a post player, and now I am going to fill that role.”
Gibbs expects a lot of herself, and so do the Red Devils.
Newton-Conover advanced to the 2-A West region final earlier last season in Greensboro, went 17-0 in conference play and finished second in the Catawba Valley Classic tournament. Those results lend themselves to high expectations from within the team and from fans in the community.
“We had a fabulous season last year and the girls got a big taste of almost being state champions,” Tharpe said. “The disappointment they felt after that last game motivated them to work harder to get back there. But I tell them saying it and doing it are different things.”
The Red Devils return four starters this season — Gibbs, Shynese Whitener, Quazzy Tipps and Tiana Littlejohn — along with three players from the bench last season who saw significant minutes. Alston, Samiya Pitts and Tossi Kent were key bench players last season, and Tharpe expects one of the three to start this year.
The team talked about winning a title, but the question is if it has the drive.
“It’s going to be a tough job,” Whitener said. “We can’t regress. We have to progress to get better.”