Cherokee girls basketball coach Chris Mintz’s job title has not changed.
But by now, he has come to expect a little unsolicited help from senior Avery Mintz and junior Kendall Toineeta.
“A lot of times they say things before I can even get it out my mouth,” Chris Mintz said. “They’ve been around this program for a long time. It’s nice when you have two leaders like that.”
Avery Mintz (who is Chris Mintz’s daughter) and Toineeta are the only returning starters for the three-time defending Big Smoky Mountain Conference champion Braves (4-1, 1-0).
But ask around, and plenty of teams would love to build around that kind of core.
Avery Mintz is a 5-foot-10 forward/guard who has signed with Lenoir-Rhyne and is averaging 19 points and eight rebounds a game. She is the reigning BSMC player of the year and scored her 1,000th career point last January.
Toineeta is a 5-foot-7 guard who reached 1,000 points on Nov. 22. The former all-BSMC selection is putting up 16.7 points a game to go along with an average of 6.3 assists and 6.0 steals.
Cherokee has won 76 combined games and a sectional championship each of the past three season. Expectations are no lower this winter.
“I’m excited for my senior year, and we’re all trying to play hard and work to get better as a team,” Avery Mintz said.
“The game we lost (59-51 at Rabun Gap, Ga., on Nov. 19) was a real eye-opener. It showed us where we need to improve.”
Sophomore guard Bree Stamper is also scoring in double figures (11.7 points per game) for the Braves, who won their BSMC opener over Rosman, 61-35, on Tuesday.
“I think we’re slowly coming together and starting to play better,” Stamper said. “It helps when you know there are other good players around you who you can trust. We work well together.”
Cherokee’s senior class is rounded out by K-bear Arch, Kayla Bradley, Miranda Smith, Ashlyn Spicer and Taren Swimmer. Junior Peri Wildcatt is pulling down six rebounds a game.
The Braves are far from a finished product, according to their coach.
“I think we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Chris Mintz said.
“Right now, we’ll have a really great quarter and then a really bad one. We need to develop more consistency and get more players involved. But that usually comes with time. We talk about goals with this group, and the first thing is that we want to win conference and everything else will, hopefully, work itself out in the end.”