Youth movement arrives for Fairborn girls basketball


FAIRBORN — The home opener for Fairborn girls basketball at Baker Middle School Wednesday was the final at the old facility.

What has already arrived before next year’s move in the meantime are a new group of fresh faces that will comprise this year’s roster.

Of the 12 players on the varsity team for the Skyhawks this season, nine of them are freshman.

Jayla Smalls, Brooklynn Kimball, Madison Bradford, Cydnie Rigato, and Aubrey Jones have received the most playing time so far. Fairy Babar, Jaucelynn Elmore, Isabella Hicks, and Jaida Mills are the others who are having a lot asked of them out of the gate but make up the group that head coach Chelsea Nichols was anticipating with excitement coming up.

“Brooklynn is a great player, we’ve got girls that can really shoot the basketball and they can facilitate it,” she said. “We watched them as eighth graders and I was excited. I really thought to myself that this was great we would have the numbers coming up, but most of all I thought they played really hard and that’s the biggest thing that made me excited to get them up here.”

Three upperclassman make up the rest of the roster, comprising of two seniors who make up all of the team’s returning playing time and junior Journey Bradford who couldn’t play last year due to injury.

“Morgan [Hollon] and Liz [VanCleve] are doing a good job, but it’s hard when we don’t have the number of seniors, juniors of even sophomores you would like,” Nichols said. “It’s a unique circumstance, but the seniors are stepping up.”

Kimball has been the focal point of the Fairborn attack through the first two games. She’s averaging 13.5 points in those contests. Jones and Smalls both have scored their first points of their high school careers.

The final result of the Skyhawks’ first two games have been similar to previous years with two losses now extending what has become a 47-game losing streak (not counting one forfeit) for the program spanning four seasons. How the games against Oakwood and Xenia played out provide plenty of optimism though that the run could be nearing its end.

The points scored in the two losses were higher totals than in all but a few games from last season. The better examples of where the most improvement is already being shown comes from the ball handling, offensive motion, defensive prowess and overall fundamentals from the group as a whole.

“I already think we’re playing a little bit stronger,” Nichols said. “Oakwood is a good program and we hung with them early. We did good [Wednesday] until we got fatigued and then they went on a bit of a run. … You can see they’re all working really hard and it makes you excited to see where they could be at the end of the season.”

With the majority of the roster filled with players who just a year ago were in the eighth grade, it seems inevitable that at some point five of them are going to find time on the floor together. Nichols said it doesn’t make it less jarring to see it happen.

“I think at one point Wednesday we did,” she said. “I looked over and asked someone if we had five freshman in and was told yes. You have to give them credit, we’ve put in five kids who had one varsity basketball under their belt. I’ve told them that I’m asking a lot out of these girls, and you have to play through some of the adversity they’ll see, but they’re doing a great job.”

Of the other nine schools in the Miami Valley League, there are 15 total freshman listed on their rosters for this season. Troy is the only other school with more than two.

Fairborn will have far and away the youngest group in the league. Nichols said she has already received compliments and encouragement from those involved with the team in different capacities how it has performed compared to previous years.

The scoreboard has yet to see the results everyone within the Skyhawks’ program want to achieve, but it’s not a bad start for a group that is the starting stage of what it could become.

“Now we just need to get them more varsity reps,” Nichols said. “They’ve been really coachable and that’s huge as that’s half the battle. They may get bumped around a bit, but it will be really cool to be able a new look on the program and have these roles as freshman go all the way through to hopefully getting to see them as juniors and seniors. The sky’s the limit.”

Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on X (formerly Twitter) @Steven_Wright_.

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