A look at the 2012-13 girls Suburban East Conference:
Star power: Taylor Robinson is the reigning conference Player of the Year. The 6-3 Ladue senior is a dominant post presence who averaged 20 points and nine rebounds a game. Robinson has committed to Temple.
First team: Robinson; Lacei Sams, 5-10, sr., Clayton
Second team: Liz Greenberg, 5-9, sr., Ladue; Najae’ Jordan, 5-7, sr., Normandy; Paige Black, 5-3, so.; Shania Thornton, 5-8, so., Jennings
Honorable mention: Nicole McNichols, 5-6, sr., Ladue; Katherine Deboer, 6-0, sr., Ladue; Natalie Grimm, 6-0, sr., Ladue; Carmen Planells, 5-7, sr., Clayton; Anjanea Simms, 5-7, so., Affton; Daria Evans, 5-6, jr., Jennings; Melissa Miller, 5-8, sr., McCluer South-Berkeley
Defending conference champion Ladue returns virtually its entire roster. Robinson is one huge mismatch in the post, and Greenberg, McNichols, Deboer and Grimm are also returning all-conference performers. Kaitlyn Walker and Cate Meyer, a pair of 5-6 sophomore guards, add depth. The Rams biggest question is replacing point guard Kate Holloway, who was a first team all-conference performer last season.
Sams, who was named conference Newcomer of the Year last season, leads Clayton. She led the Greyhounds in scoring (8.2) and rebounding (6.2). Planells, Nina Murov (5-5, sr., G) and Amelia Stubblefield (5-10, sr., C) also return. Clayton hopes to build on the momentum it gained at the end of last season. After losing their first nine games, the Greyhounds finished strong, posting a 13-14 record.
Jennings received the double whammy of losing all-conference first-teamer Eliza Payne (graduation) and fellow first-teamer Aaryana Cook (transferred to Oakville). Thornton and Evans, who figures to play the point, return as do Sabrina Harris (5-5, sr., G) and Daizha McGhee (5-8, sr., F), who will be eligible to return in January. Newcomers Rian Logan (5-10, fr., C), Jessica Killen (5-4, jr., G) and Keyonna Gladney (5-5, jr., G) will get quality minutes.
Affton will have to find a way to replace Hali Ford, who led the team in scoring (13.6), rebounding (8.6), assists (4.52), steals (5.48) and blocks (6.26). The Cougars have 10 sophomores, including Black, who averaged 7.6 ppg. Sims, Tori Thompson (5-5, so., G), Alayna Chapie (5-10, so., F) and Vanessa Mezines (5-9, so., F) also are part of a talented underclass.
McCluer South-Berkeley returns its two top scorers in Miller (11.8 ppg) and Alliah Morganfield (10.6 ppg). Maurtaisha Mayo (5-6, so., G), Kelsey Miller-Lewis (6-0, sr., C) and LaResha Thompson (6-0, so., F) also return. Jamesha Pritchard (5-4, fr., G), Miranda Curtis (5-6, sr., G), Marche’ Belched (5-5, sr., G) and Asia Belched (5-4, fr., G) also will get quality minutes.
Transfers hit Normandy hard. All-conference honorable mention Leah Hamilton moved to Indianapolis, and back-up point guard Mayia Baker moved to Texas. That leaves Jordan (3.8 ppg) as the lone veteran returner. Brandy Coleman (5-9, jr., C) and Sheukeka Hightower (5-6, sr., G) will help shoulder the load. Hightower missed her entire junior season with an injury.
HOW WE SEE IT
Ladue, with virtually its entire roster returning, is the clear team to beat for the conference championship. The Rams’ biggest question is at point guard, but Robinson’s dominance in the post should smooth things over until that position is settled. Clayton finished last season winning 13 of its final 18 games and could be Ladue’s biggest challenger with a talented core coming back. Losing Cook was a big blow, but Jennings has the athletes to remain dangerous.