Young point guards ready to lead offense for Missouri women's basketball

Monday, November 5, 2012 | 9:02 p.m. CST; updated 11:06 p.m. CST, Monday, November 5, 2012
Sophomore Kyley Simmons takes a pass during a drill at a Missouri women's basketball practice Oct. 29 at the practice courts at Mizzou Arena.

COLUMBIA — As the Missouri women's basketball team split up into pairs to begin practice, two voices rang out amid the clamor.

"Kyley!" "Doty!" "Kyley!" "Doty!" 

Lianna Doty stood at the 3-point line on the east side of Mizzou Arena, putting up shot after shot, and Kyley Simmons stood under the net rebounding.

The shooter built up a rhythm, with each player calling out the other's name with every pass from Simmons back to Doty. The drill was only interrupted when Simmons pulled down a rebound and motioned Doty toward her.

Simmons whispered something in Doty's ear, her outstretched arm pointing at spots around the perimeter as Doty listened intently. As the other players warmed up, the two point guards stood unnoticed, talking strategy. 

Simmons, a sophomore, and Doty, a freshman, both stand at 5-foot-7, making them the shortest players on the team. Both are speedy and vocal and make their living at the top of the key, fitting the profile of a prototypical point guard. 

The responsibility for leading the Tigers' offense this season will fall on their shoulders.

It'll be nothing new for Simmons, who averaged more than 36 minutes per game as she took ownership of the position last season during her freshman campaign.

But expectations will be high for Doty, despite her inexperience. Before the season, coach Robin Pingeton identified her as the freshman who stood out most in early practices. 

But while the two will be sharing time at the point guard position, there doesn't seem to be any animosity.

"They're two of the most competitive kids we have, so in practice it's extremely competitive, but I would say it's a really healthy competition," Pingeton said. "I think they have a lot of respect for each other, and we know they're going to need them both."

When the team's freshmen moved to Columbia last summer, Simmons took Doty under her wing, helping her acclimate to the college game.

"She's already a high-level player," Simmons said. "I talked to her about things, about what Coach P. kind of likes, how we do things, some of the drills. But other than that, Doty is Doty, and she came in ready to go."

Despite their physical similarities, they play two different styles. With a year of experience in Pingeton's system, Simmons is adept at leading the set offense, running through plays and getting teammates open. Pingeton describes Doty as more of a "playmaker," more likely to take an open shot herself. 

But for a few minutes in Missouri's first exhibition game, Simmons and Doty were on the floor at the same time, with Simmons moving over to shooting guard. 

"It was definitely different, but I mean, it was fun at the same time," Simmons said of the arrangement. "When we were on the court, it was just fast. Like, we got up the floor in a heartbeat. It was fun to play with her."

Pingeton isn't sure whether she'll continue to play them together, but she thinks it could be a solution to some of her concerns about the team's defense, even if it's only used in certain situations. 

"What they do bring to the court is toughness from a defensive standpoint, two kids that really love to play defense, and I think they can create some havoc on that end," Pingeton said. "Time will tell."

As the team heads into its regular season, the Tigers will look to the underclassmen to help the inexperienced team settle in.

Pingeton is counting on Simmons and Doty to maintain their selfless attitudes.

"It's an easy thing to talk about, it's a hard thing to really do as a college athlete, because everyone wants to be on the court," Pingeton said. "But I think those are two high-character kids that, whatever the role is that we need them to play, they're gonna accept it and do the best they can."

Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.

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