Forrest girls head basketball coach Jeremy Jean already had one of his dreams come true in a totally unexpected manner last year when he landed the head-coaching job of the Lady Rockets.
"I had always hoped to coach and knew I would, but to have this be my first job was a dream come true," said the coach.
Jean said, "Things have been going really good, better than I expected. The girls have adjusted really good to me and me to them."
Jean's dreams continue to be the one's you do not want wake up from with his latest images of the night foretelling the season opening trial by fire trip to Clarkrange.
"I have a vision we get the tip and run a play for a three and knock it down," said Jean. "Everyone I talk to says that Clarkrange is a tough place to play and that you have to weather the early storm and get through those first three minutes. I plan on attacking and making our own storm."
If there are those out there expecting anything other than a continuation of the Lady Rocket legacy because of the coaching change and the graduation of several of the past Chapel Hill hardwood heroines, beware.
"I am hoping people overlook us," said Jean.
The Gaby Bussell champion class of "2008" taught their peers well and laid a solid foundation, cementing a yes-we-can belief that is written in stone.
Former head coach Robby Reasonover; the sculptor of the masterpiece knew greatness and instilled that belief. Heck, the coach wore a gold shirt to the 2006 title tilt to match the ball that sits gleaming in the trophy case of the school lobby.
The memories of Gaby, Dakota Wesson, Ayla Young, and Blair Foster laying all they had on line, every night, dominating district play, capturing region crowns, winning the school's first ever state title in 2006 and appearing in three straight state tournaments are the DNA of Forrest Lady Rocket basketball.
"I don't know if you can replace any of them," said Jean. "You just have to win without them."
The 2008-2009 team still has that look in their eyes and is talented and ready to roll on.
What they face is a killer schedule, beginning with the trek to Fentress County to face the four-time Class A State Champion Lady Buffaloes, who exudes tradition and greatness. Clarkrange was one kiss off the glass from title number five last year and will be the best test a team can have coming out of the gate. For many observers, Clarkrange is the favorite this year.
The Lady Rockets have just 10 home dates this season with road jaunts to Wayne County for the Christmas tournament with the Lady Cats and Collinwood, the annual battle in Summertown, in Eagleville after the Christmas presents are delivered, and finish with four straight bus trips to end the season, the last two versus Richland and a second battle with Collinwood.
"You have to win on the road to get where you want to go," said the coach. "Later on, this will be a blessing in disguise."
The road to the district title should be a little tougher this season and Forrest will be hard pressed to match the 16-0 record they posted last year.
"I have been away from Class A for a while now, so I don't know very much about the district or the region," said Jeans. "What I do know is that I want to pick up just where we left off."
MTCS is still licking their wounds from four losses at the hands of the Lady Rockets last season with each of those contests played at an extremely high emotional level that will make the rivalry an intense one.
Eagleville, Cascade, and Community will be fighting for the final two spots in the district.
The Lady Rockets strength is in the low post with solid senior Summer Waggoner, junior standout Beth Hawn, freshman newcomer Adrean Jordan, along with the versatile Lorrie Logue.
Hawn is probably the best player in the region and knows how to score in the post and is a force on defense. Waggoner knows how to do it all in the blocks and is an intense performer who has been tournament tested for three years. Jordan was a standout middle school player who could help the Lady Rockets immeasurably if she can make an immediate impact.
"Beth is such a hard worker," said the coach. "She loves basketball and she wants to play at the next level. She will be the go to player. If Beth doesn't get down on herself she will be able to do whatever she wants."
Summer Waggoner was an all-state tournament team performer as a freshman and now must take the leadership role on the Lady Rockets. "Summer is going to be a dominant player this year," said Jean. "Her role is to play great defense, block out and rebound, and score."
Adrean Jordan, an intense performer will be tested early with significant playing time. "Adrean has come a long way and still has a way to go," said the coach. "She is going to have to grow up quick. I told her by Christmas she is no longer a freshman, she is a sophomore."
Asked about how he would describe his team in three words, Jean responded with, "Physical, fast, and deep" and that is apparent when you look at the bevy of guards that he will use to carry out his torturous run and press game plan.
"Our style will be up-tempo, all the time. We will be a pressing defense and run until we get tired and then a fresh person will come in and continue. We go eight to ten players deep and there are others who are pressing towards the rotation."
Bequi Bussell will play the point and seems fully recovered from her knee injury. "I am so proud Bequi is still here," said Jean. "I think she is back to full strength. Bequi has been working hard lifting weights and her speed looks good. She will lead the team on the floor."
Taylour Allen will back up Bussell at the point and is quick and smart. Allen has been waiting in the wings for a chance to shine and this could be her breakout season. "I am impressed with Taylour," said the coach. "She was very quick with her feet in soccer and is very quick on the floor. There will be times when her and Bequi will be on the floor together."
Then there is Megan Porter who played everywhere last year and came on strong at the end of the season, gaining All-Region tournament honors. Porter can drain the three-bomb or work her way into the paint to score. "Megan is healthy and she is a positive force. She has been playing really hard and is rebounding and playing great defense."
Amanda Daughrity played a lot of minutes last year and will be an integral part of the up-tempo style of play. "Amanda is very athletic," said Jean. "She can go anywhere with the ball and the more confidence she gets, the better she will be."
Haley Mathis is a speedster and has a high motor that fits perfect in Jean's plans. "Haley is an athlete and I think she understands what I want from her when she is on the floor. She can guard the best opposing guard on the floor."
Asked who would be the Blair Foster for the Lady Rockets this season and be the aggressor and gritty guard that wreaks havoc, Jean smiled and said, "They are all a little mean, but I would have to say Thea Ledbetter is that player. They all like playing physical basketball."
Ledbetter can also throw down the three and has been displaying great form over the summer and in the early fall camps. "Over in Franklin County (Pre-season play day), Thea was 5-8 from behind the arc. She is very athletic with the ball and is getting more confidence and is looking for ways to get even more confident," said Jean.
Randi Tombs and Canaan Raines have also impressed Jean and should be pushing their way into the rotation as the season progresses.