“It hurts,” said Springfield senior VoShawn Williams. “It’s not the same. We’ve just got to pull through and do it for her. It’s not the same going into the gym every day and not seeing her smile and not seeing her getting ready to work. We’ve just got to get it done for her.”
Wells averaged six rebounds and five points per game last season. After temporarily suspending its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wildcats are expected to travel to Springboro for their season opener at 7:30 p.m. Monday.
Wildcats coach Kawambee Gaines knows Wells will be watching over them this season.
“It’s been tough even though our girls have been working real hard,” Gaines said. “I know emotionally the thought of her sometimes, it bothers some of them. It bothers me. I tell them all the time you coach because you love the kids. She was surely someone who supported me.”
Wells’ biggest impact came as one of the team’s leaders in the locker room, Gaines said.
“Last year there were some games we might have lost and I might have taken it pretty hard and she would come to me and say, ‘Coach Gaines, don’t stop being that way. Keep wanting the best for us’,” he said. “She was surely someone special and someone that we miss. We miss her leadership and her personality. We miss her.”
Wells’ grandmother, Victoria Arnold, has spoken with the teams several times and provided the team with masks and other gifts, Gaines said.
“She wanted us to know we’ll be carrying Destiny with us this year,” he said. “I thought that was a great gesture on their families’ part.”
The Wildcats resumed practice earlier this week after the COVID shutdown. They didn’t miss a beat, Williams said.
“Although our season started a late later than we wanted it to, as our teams are learning how to work together in practice and understanding each, I think we’ll be able to have a really good season,” said senior Courtney Rice. “With the way we’re able to communicate with each other, I think it will turn out really good for us regardless of the late start.”
The team will also have to replace the production left by six seniors, including All-Ohio guard Mickayla Perdue, who graduated early and is now playing at the University of Toledo. Rice and Williams are the lone seniors on the team this winter.
“It’s a different change of pace for us,” Rice said. “We have a lot of new girls that we’re trying to figure out as seniors as they’re coming up.”
The Wildcats return junior forward Tymarah De’Armond, an All-Greater Western Ohio Conference special mention selection last season. She averaged 6.3 points and 8.3 rebounds last season.
“She can handle the ball, she can shoot, she can pass and she can guard all five positions, I’m really excited to see her game step up,” Gaines said.
Junior point guard Carissa Davis and junior wing Camya Calloway will also play key roles on the team, along with junior post Lauren Tate, junior forward Tymeerah De’Armond and freshman post Tajaie Clark-Crowley.
“Last year, I think a lot of them were waiting around to see what Mick was going to do,” Gaines said. “Now it’s time for them to see what they’re going to do. They’ve dealt with a lot of adversity, but this summer we really worked hard. We were in the parks, running at the reservoir. We had a lot of kids buying in. Hopefully this season we’ll see the results.”
The Wildcats hope to compete in the tough GWOC that includes powerhouses such as Centerville, Fairmont and Wayne.
“We want to win. That’s the goal. I know our league is tough,” Gaines said. “It’s not going to get any easier. No one is going to be apologetic to us. We have the talent, we just have to believe, work hard and show it.”