Hoops Preview: Commerce Lady Tigers

The Lady Tigers are forced to turn the page from a great senior class that made back-to-back Final 4 runs and runner-up finishes in their region. That said, the level of expectation for Commerce girls basketball remains sky-high, and coach Brad Puckett will look to keep this train running.

HEAD COACH: Brad Puckett (9th Season)
2021-22 RECORD: 14-15, Region 8-A Public Runner-Up, 1A Public State Final Four, #3 State Ranking
RETURNING STARTERS: Malay Mitchell, Raven Parks, Jada Palumbo
KEY DEPARTURES: “5 seniors graduated from last year’s team-the most notable was starting point guard-Lauren Massey (one of top 2 leading scorers) and Carson Hobbs (leading scorer and rebounder from last year),” says Puckett. “Kendall Peters saw significant time off the bench and brought a lot of defensive intensity; and Grace Hobbs (injured halfway through the year) was a defensive presence inside with more height than we have ever had at Commerce. All of these girls graduated.”
KEY PLAYERS: “Jada Palumbo will have to take over point guard duties this year since Lauren Massey graduated,” adds Puckett. “She did a great job this summer learning this new position. Malay Mitchell will have to not only continue her aggressive inside play from last year, but also pop out and play outside to fill the role of Carson Hobbs who also graduated. Raven Parks will bring back a solid outside game as well as being a leading rebounder from last year’s team. Freshman Cami Thomason was very impressive this summer. She brings an energy level and hustle that make everyone pick their game up a level. Jayah and Jurney Vann (transferred from Banks Co) have been very impressive so far. We have only had one practice, but that was enough to see that they will play a key role this year.”
OFFENSE: “Not really sure yet,” states Puckett. “We have new faces since this summer. We hope to run with the ball, but still be able to set up and work inside out.”
STRENGTHS: “Still bringing back a core group that is used to deep playoff runs,” adds Puckett. “The addition to new faces has filled in holes left by graduation.”
BIGGEST CHALLENGES: “Brand new point guard who is just a sophomore and new to the position,” admits Puckett. “We are also going to be relatively young. We have no seniors and some freshmen who will have to fill some spots.”

Point blank, the Lady Tigers are young and inexperienced in a lot of areas, and in a new region with Rabun County (State Runner-Up), Elbert County (State Champions), Tallulah Falls (Elite 8), and others, it’s going to be trial by fire early for many players once region play starts up. Still, Puckett always has his team learning and adjusting on the run and aiming to get hot at the right time.

“We are entering a brutal region with Elbert and Rabun who both played for state last year, Tallulah who won their region, and Athens Christian who had numerous transfers from Franklin County,” adds Puckett. “Our expectations are that we will play hard from start to finish, strive to win every play by doing the little things right, and the rest will fall into place.”

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