Photo by Jerry Jackson
Since transferring from Forest Park last year, Jonesboro senior guard Raven Wynn has been an important piece to the Lady Cardinals return to the Class AAAA semifinals this season.
JONESBORO — Some things about this season are very consistent to what Raven Wynn has already experienced in her high school career.
Deep runs into the state playoffs are among them. For example, last season, Wynn was gearing up to play Alcovy in the Class AAAA quarterfinal round of the playoffs.
Saturday she’ll be stepping on the court in the semifinals against defending state champion Columbia.
The winner punches their ticket to Thursday’s championship game — also an experience not unique to the senior point guard.
The difference in her experiences this year is the team she plays for.
Last season, Wynn helped a Forest Park Lady Panthers team riddled with injuries to advance further in the playoffs than many people expected.
This season, she has become a boost to Jonesboro’s backcourt as the Lady Cardinals make their second straight trip to the Class AAAA semifinals.
For Wynn, who transferred to the school from Forest Park during the offseason, it was an acclimation process that took a little getting used to, but is now paying off for both Wynn and her Jonesboro teammates.
“For her it was difficult coming into a new program and playing with new girls,” Jonesboro coach Lamar Harris said. “She came in kind of with the mindset that she was going to prove she belonged on this team. She’s very confident and it shows in her game.”
It is that confidence that Harris said helped Wynn to win over her teammates in fairly short order. No small feat for a team returning three standout seniors, Briana Benson, Kim Dawkins and Victoria Florence, from a semifinals appearance.
“At first, you know, you’ve kind of got the whole ‘nobody’s going to take my job’ thing, which is typical on any competitive team,” Harris said. “But once the competition got going, the girls embraced it and accepted her well. And everybody’s glad that it has happened.”
Count Florence among those who is more than happy to have another talented guard join her in the backcourt.
“It’s been great for me to have Raven here this year,” Florence said. “Her penetration game really opens up the game more for me and Briana to shoot and score.”
And, Florence said, it also takes a little pressure off of her to handle most of the point guard duties as she often found herself doing last season.
“It’s definitely been a help,” she said. “It’s brought in another experienced guard who’s been playing top level basketball at her other school for all four years just like we have.”
Wynn is averaging 5.8 points per game for the Cardinals (26-4), but her presence has been felt in more ways than just by what shows up on the stat sheet.
Wynn has been able to gel into the flow of a Lady Cardinals team that’s thirsty for a state title.
“I had to adjust to the chemistry of everyone on this team,” Wynn said. “That means that whatever it is I had to do to adjust, that’s what I needed to do.”
Even if that meant changing the way she played personally.
At Forest Park, where Wynn played for a state championship during her sophomore year — the Panthers lost to Fayette County in the title game — she gained the reputation of being a “one speed” type of guard.
She always aimed to play fast, which she admits, wasn’t always the best way.
“I think the difference between me then and now is I’ve started to look to shoot more,” Wynn said. “I’ve definitely learned to slow down more. That’s part of fitting into the chemistry of where I am now.”
It shows that Wynn has been listening to her coach.
“I told Raven when she first came in the door to be patient, play patient and let her game speak for her,” Harris said. “And she won them over with her play on the court.”
One thing that can serve as a boon for Jonesboro, especially it can beat Columbia and move on to the state final, is the fact that Wynn has been on that state championship game stage where the rest of the Lady Cardinals want to be.
Harris said that her experience in that regard is valuable.
“It definitely brings an added advantage having someone who’s been there before,” said Harris who is making his first appearance in the semifinals as a head coach. “But it’s still another basketball game. The only thing that increases is crowd size. We have to just remember how we got there and stay focused.”
Wynn said that her experiences at Forest Park and Jonesboro has her even better prepared to grab another level of success.
“I have a better mindset and more understanding of what it takes to get here,” Wynn said. “And not only get there, but to now win it all.”