By Mary Jane Souder
It’s hardly a secret – ask any basketball coach the most important position on the court, and chances are they’ll say point guard.
While the league was blessed with an abundance of talented post players last season, this year could safely be called ‘The Year of the Point Guard’ in the SOL. Talent abounds at that position, and each conference can lay claim to at least one elite floor general.
Alexis Hofstaedter tops the list in the National Conference. The gifted senior, who will be taking her talents to William and Mary next year, has been running the show at Council Rock South since she walked into the gym as a freshman. Bensalem has a special talent at the point in four-year starter Ashida Cooper, and another shining star emerged last year when freshman Deja Rawls took over the reins at point guard for Abington.
In the Continental Conference, North Penn’s Lauren Crisler, whose talents have earned her a full ride to American University, is undeniably the conference’s top player. The gifted senior can occupy any one of the five positions on the court and control play, but the conference also boasts some serious talent at point guard.
Bianca Picard has been an impact player since she set foot on the court as a freshman at Souderton, and the junior floor general will once again be a force for foes to contend with. At Central Bucks West, Nicole Munger’s impeccable basketball instincts were apparent from the moment she took the court as a freshman. A year later, she is expected to be one of the conference’s top players.
In the American Conference, Curtrena Goff is alone at the top of the class. The Upper Dublin senior has been a key to the Flying Cardinals’ success for the past three years, and that doesn’t figure to change this season.
Alexis Hofstaedter – Senior, Council Rock South
A first team all-league selection last year, Hofstaedter – better known as ‘Hof’ to her teammates – is smooth as silk on the basketball court. Last season, the veteran point guard averaged 8.1 PPG, 3.5 rebounds and 6.6 assists. She has spent a career making her teammates look better, and with one year still remaining, Hofstaedter already holds the program’s career mark for assists (464) as well as most assists in a season (199), a record she set during the 2011-12 season.
Council Rock South coach Monica Stolic says: “Alexis is the quarterback of the team. She has been starting every game since her freshman year. We had another point guard when she came in as a freshman and put Alexis as the two guard for maybe the first game. We were like, ‘No, we need Alexis handling the ball and getting the ball up the court.’ For a girl of her stature, she’s pretty strong with her passes. She sees the floor so well. Alexis has come a long way. In her sophomore year, we played Cheltenham in the SOL Challenge, and we got crushed. The pressure really bothered her. We played them in districts at the end of the season, and we lost by six points. Alexis came a long way as a sophomore. She really improved in how she handles pressure and sees the floor. She’s very unselfish. She looks to pass the ball first – which is what a good point guard does. She’s going to have to score for us this year. She has a really good pull-up jumper, she has a good first step, and she can get to the basket, and she has the three range too.”
Deja Rawls – Sophomore, Abington
Rawls, a second team all-league selection last season, stepped into the role of point guard as a freshman and immediately assumed a leadership position. An excellent passer, she can take the ball to the hole or burn teams from the outside. Rawls, the undisputed leader of this year’s squad, is the first sophomore captain coach Dan Marsh has ever had.
Abington coach Dan Marsh says: “I’ve known Deja for a long time.She went to our camps and clinics back when she was in first, second and third grades, and when she was in third grade, we were moving her up to play with the seventh and eighth graders because she was head and shoulders above everyone. We thought Deja was good last year, but she’s gotten so much better. She’s similar to Emily Leer where you have your best player working really hard, and it just becomes contagious. We’re so young. She’s a sophomore, but she’s our leader. Deja is a tough kid. It doesn’t matter if she’s injured or banged up, she’s always out there working hard. She pushes her teammates to get better. Deja is very unselfish – she wants to involve everybody. She wants to be good, and she wants the team to be good, and she’s very competitive. She’s a quiet kid, but over the summer, we told her we needed her to work on being a leader. It’s a 180-degree turnaround. Now she’s vocal, she’s pushing her teammates.”
Ashida Cooper – Senior, Bensalem
The Owls’ senior point guard has been a starter since she set foot in the gym as a freshman. Last year, she averaged 10 points and seven assists a game and earned second team all-league honors. Cooper’s strength is not only directing the Owls’ offense but also creating opportunities with her defensive play.
Bensalem coach Don Bogan says: “Ashida is our leader on the floor. As a sophomore, she really came into her own. She knows what I want, and she can run an offense well. She definitely knows how to play defense, and she can drive to the basket. The only thing she might be lacking a little bit is an outside jumper. She’s the type of player on the court who can change a game around. She can take control of a game, she can take control of the tempo of the game. When she’s on the court, she’s in the game, and we’re in the game. She knows where I want the ball and how to run an offense. She knows when to attack and when to be patient. She keeps everything under control and directs the offense. We go as she goes.”
Bianca Picard – Junior, Souderton
Picard burst onto the scene as a freshman with the pressure of following in the footsteps of older brother, AJ Picard, who had a prolific career on the hardwood at Souderton. She wasted little time before stepping out of his shadow and has established herself as one of the top point guards in the league. Last season, Picard averaged 11.2 PPG, 3.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.8 steals and received second team all-league recognition. She is close to an 80 percent foul shooter.
Souderton coach Lynn Carroll says: “Bianca is playing as well as I’ve ever seen her play, and she’s playing as hard as I’ve ever seen her play. There’s never any doubt when it’s the offseason – my coaches and I know Bianca is out getting better. Whether she’s with our team or not, that girl just loves basketball. It’s in her blood. I think she’s now starting to consistently play with the confidence she deserves to play with. She’s always deserved to play with it, but I think she’s just getting there now. She’s just been great. She’s practicing hard, she’s really making sure that she’s spreading the ball around. I know the coaches appreciate that and her teammates appreciate that. She has a great supporting cast, but I can’t say enough about the kind of player she’s turned herself into because of the amount of time she puts into it. If there’s one thing you want, it’s a point guard you can trust. The amount of trust I now have in Bianca on the court – it just continues to grow, and it’s at a really high level, which is a great thing for a coach to have. I think that immediately transfers to the girls. We all trust Bianca when she has the ball in her hands, and that’s a good feeling.”
Nicole Munger – Sophomore, Central Bucks West
Munger served notice as a freshman that she would be something special, displaying the kind of innate instincts that can’t be coached. Last year, the sophomore point guard earned second team all league honors, averaging 8.3 PPG, 2.9 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 2.1 steals.
Central Bucks West coach Terry Rakowsky says: “Nicole is a tremendous talent, not only on the court but mentally. She’s one of those kids – I’ve always said there are only a couple of kids you would pay to watch practice, and she’s one of them. No matter what she’s doing, you’re amazed sometimes by her energy. She works as hard as anybody we have. She’s a special kid. She totally changed our team last year because my first three years we never really had a true point guard. We had kids who we put at that position but honestly didn’t really want to be there. To have her there, it sort of solidifies that position. It’s like your quarterback on the floor, and she handles that extremely well.”
Curtrena Goff – Senior, Upper Dublin
A four-year varsity player, the Flying Cardinals’ senior point guard has spent her career making those around her look better. Her nifty passing skills have regularly set up her teammates for easy buckets, and she willingly takes a backseat when it came to putting points on the board. Last year, Goff averaged 8.9 PPG, 2.6 assists and 3.2 steals. They are the kind of numbers she has been putting up for three straight years, and again, stats don’t tell the story of Goff’s contributions.
Upper Dublin coach Morgan Funsten says: “We’re going to go this year as she goes. Her biggest strength is she can be a one-person press break when we need her to be, and it should discourage teams from really pressuring her because she can get by people and make teams pay for trying to pressure her. She’s an incredible ball handler, and to go along with that, her court vision is unbelievable. She’s able to make some of the most ridiculous passes you’ll ever see because of that combination of being so strong with the ball, having great vision and being a great passer. She is the ultimate team player, and she makes the other players on the floor so much better.”
Player to Watch
Abington - Deja Rawls (Soph.)
Bensalem - Ashida Cooper (Sr.), Tyra Roberts (Sr.)
Council Rock North – Jessica Gerber (Soph.)
Council Rock South - Alexis Hofstaedter (Sr.), Courtney Brown (Sr.), Taylor Dillon (Jr.)
Neshaminy - Megan Schafer (Jr.)
Pennsbury - Sajanna Bethea (Jr.), Jae Jackson (Sr.), Kaitlin Kelly (Jr.)
William Tennent - Allison Chatburn (Sr.)
Truman - Khristaijah Jackson (Jr.)
CB East – Karoline White (Jr.)
CB South - Alysha Lofton (Jr.), Rachel Falkowski (Sr.)
CB West - Nicole Munger (Soph.)
Hatboro-Horsham – Heather Lutz (Sr.)
North Penn - Lauren Crisler (Sr.), Vicky Tumasz (Jr.), Erin Maher (Jr.)
Pennridge - Jordan Rimmer (Jr.)
Quakertown - Brittny Buonanno Taylor, Kathryne Vetter (Sr.)
Souderton – Libby Wetzler (Sr.), Bianca Picard (Jr.), Allison Gallagher (Jr.)
Norristown - Sydney Morse (Sr.), Briana Hedgepath (Jr.)
PW - Simone Jacques (Sr.), Maya Thomas (Sr.)
Upper Dublin - Curtrena Goff (Sr.), Lauren Rothfeld (Sr.)
Upper Merion - Kristina O'Sullivan (Sr.), Regie Robinson (Soph.)
Upper Moreland - Lindsay Walder (Jr.)
Wissahickon - Dominique Earland (Sr.), Rachel Stone (Sr.), Kian Wright (Jr.)
*Players to Watch listed above either received all-league recognition last year or were selected by their respective coaches.