There really were five starters on the Providence Day girls’ basketball team that won the school’s eighth straight state championship last season.
Nearly all the attention was focused on All-America center Janelle Bailey, who has taken her 22.9 points and 13.1 rebounds a game to Chapel Hill, ready to start her college career with the Tar Heels.
But Bailey was playing with some excellent guards. And so it will be a new-look Chargers team this season, a team that hounds opponents, trying to stop foes from driving to the basket, where there won’t be a shot-blocker as the final line of defense.
The symbol of this new Providence Day team is Kennedy Boyd, a 5-foot-7 senior guard who has captured national attention of her own. Boyd has committed to play at North Carolina next season, where she will join Bailey playing for coach Sylvia Hatchell.
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“A different team?” Boyd says, repeating a question about the Chargers’ team this season. She starts laughing, then adds, “It sure will be.”
Bailey accounted for about 30 percent of the scoring and 40 percent of the rebounding on a Providence Day team that won the Division I private schools’ title with a 25-4 record. But don’t launch a pity party for the Chargers.
Boyd is the real deal. One college scouting report describes her as a “game manager with a smooth floor game.” Another service calls her a “triple-threat creator.” Boyd’s father, Ron, was a starting point guard for coach Steve Joyner at J.C. Smith in the ’90s.
To Providence Day coach Josh Springer, Kennedy Boyd is “a real leader, an outstanding player and an outstanding student.”
“She’s the only player I can remember who missed a basketball camp because she was at a lawyer camp,” Springer says. “And the first thing she told me when I saw her after that camp was, ‘I’m so upset! I was the defense attorney and I lost the case!’ ”
“I guess I’m a bit competitive,” Boyd says. “I’m like that at everything.”
The Chargers will have four guards on the floor often this season. Springer says the team will press, play harassing defense and run a lot. He says 90 percent of the roster will include freshmen and sophomores.
“We’ll have to play faster and below the rim,” he says.
Boyd says it will come down to fundamentals.
“We’re talking about playing fundamental defense,” she says. “Last year, if a player got past us we knew Janelle was there to make the stop. This year we know it’s on us.”
Boyd averaged 11.9 points, 3.7 assists and 2.3 steals a game last season, and those numbers are likely to climb in her senior season.
“I’m ready to take on the leadership role,” she says. “But we have some very good players on this team.”
Sophomores Kailey Smith, Andi Levitz and MiLeia Owens return, and they’ll be joined by newcomer Nina-Simone Clark and Boyd in the starting lineup.
Boyd says the goal of winning a ninth straight state championship is a challenge, not a burden.
“It motivates us,” she says. “We don’t want to be the team that ends the streak, and it will make us work harder.”
If she needs to relax, Boyd puts in her earplugs and escapes to her music. She loves old-school hip hop (think Lauryn Hill and Tupac) and enjoys a challenge from her math and engineering-oriented curriculum.
Springer says Providence Day has “been blessed with some great talent” but adds that “every season has its own challenge.”
“This year will be different,” he says. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle