HAGERSTOWN — Marlys Palmer has a feeling that the Hagerstown Community College women’s basketball team will be able to give opponents their just desserts.
“We have all the ingredients to make the cake,” Palmer said. “It’s just a matter of if we can come together to do it.”
The Hawks’ concoction could be very interesting.
HCC has sophomores to make expectations rise, firm texture in the middle and enough varied offense to put the icing on top.
That is, if everything mixes well.
“On paper, it looks good,” said Palmer, who enters her 33rd season as HCC’s coach. “Behind the scenes, we want to think this will be a promising season. We have a team that if everyone stays healthy, we have a team that can compete.”
HCC’s two main assets are experience and a collection of players who can play the interior. It’s been awhile since Palmer has had both in HCC’s pantry at the same time, especially the inside offense.
Seven of the 12 Hawks are sophomores, while at least five players can play in the paint or post up to get the ball inside.
“We have a sophomore-dominated group,” Palmer said. “All the sophomores played a lot last year. Typically in a two-year situation, that usually helps you, but will it help us? I don’t know.”
Part of the problem has been health issues. The healthiest the Hawks have been this season was the first day they stepped on campus. After that, it has been a string of illnesses and problems which have prevented HCC from practicing at full strength.
Still, the players who can practice have given Palmer the inkling of success. Part of it is because of the versatility the Hawks seem to possess.
“We have a lot of people who can score,” Palmer said. “If you look at our team, we have an inside presence for the first time in a long time. We have players who can play inside and players who can go in and post up for the ball. We haven’t presented a threat in there the last couple of years. Now we will be able to work the ball inside.”
The inside strength is bolstered by four players — Martinsburg graduate Yolanda Pinkcett, North Hagerstown grad Akatshi Osongo, Sabrina Cue and Tomi Dare.
Osongo and Cue are freshmen, but Pinkcett returns from last season and Dare comes back after missing last season with an injury.
HCC also has a pair of forwards who can go inside and create situations in sophomore Casey Roberts and Katie Sprecher, a freshman from Smithsburg.
It is bound together with some skilled guards, including Alessandra (Sunny) Flores, who added a dynamic flair to the Hawks last season at point guard. North Hagerstown’s Kishia Jackson will have a full season after transferring into HCC last winter.
The Hawks have also added two local products — Boonsboro’s Ashley Smothers and Grace Academy’s Victoria Broadwater — to the fold.
Another big addition to HCC this season is new assistant coach Vicky Bullett, a Martinsburg and University of Maryland graduate who played international, Olympic and WNBA basketball.
“Coach Bullett has made a world of difference,” Palmer said. “She has been able to get out there with the players and mix it up. But more importantly, she has had an impact showing the players what it takes to be good, to practice and not take any days off.”
The Hawks open the season on Wednesday at home against the Northern Virginia as Palmer begins a quest to win her 600th career game. She enters the season with a 582-350 record.
“We have a group that really competes with each other,” Palmer said. “Practices have intensity and they challenge each other to raise their games. If we stay healthy, we have a team that can compete. We don’t have any glaring weaknesses.”
Winning would just complete the recipe for Marlys Palmer and the HCC women’s basketball program.