Sophomores Kalyn Byrd and Jaylyn James are looking to do even more after emerging as Burlington Township’s starting guards as freshmen last year.
Last season, the arrival of Thunder and Lightning gave Burlington Township High School girls basketball a much-needed spark.
Thunder, a.k.a. sophomore Kalyn Byrd, and Lightning, a.k.a. sophomore Jaylyn James, emerged as a dynamic guard pairing during their freshman season in 2017–18. Now, the two are expected to do even bigger things in leading a Falcons program that has high expectations in 2018–19.
“What we’re expecting this year is a big step up, for them to advance their game even more and to be more as leaders this year,” head coach Jason Williams said of his guard pairing.
Byrd and James were part of the reason for Burlington Township’s improvement to 12 wins in 2017–18. Those 12 wins were the most for the program since 2011–12, when the Falcons won 13 games. The 12 wins were also a large improvement from just two seasons prior in 2015–16, when Burlington Township went just 3–20.
“Our team is developing a lot more,” James said. “We’re making smarter decisions, doing well on our plays.”
Byrd and James are an incredibly tight pair who have developed very strong chemistry together on the court. Williams said both players can play either point or shooting guard and have the ability to step up during the game’s biggest moments.
“They both have the ability to play the one or the two,” Williams said. “We kind of depend on the matchups, what we’re getting and whose more of a hot shooter at that time.”
When talking about their roles, Byrd described herself as more of a playmaker, while she said James is the better shooter.
“I’m more of a playmaker and going to the hole,” Byrd said. “Usually, if I’m going to the hole but I can’t finish, I’ll pass it to her because she’s the shooter.”
Together, both players logged considerable minutes on varsity as freshmen and combined to score more than 300 points for the year.
“What helped them the most was all of the experience they gained playing varsity as freshmen,” Williams said. “They got a big taste of it, so that year under the belts helped them tremendously.”
Despite their success, Byrd and James said they are not the only reason for the Falcons’ recent improvement.
“It’s not just us, but the whole team,” Byrd said. “We’re more athletic this year and I have confidence we’ll do better this year.”
Williams concurred, saying this year’s team could be the most talented team the Falcons have had in a long time. Williams set two very tangible goals for Burlington Township this season: finish with a winning record and host a home playoff game. While those goals may not seem like a big deal to some programs, it would be for the Falcons has they haven’t achieved either of those goals this decade.
Byrd and James said the team plans to hit opponents with a a lot of speed and an up-tempo style of play this year.
“We have a lot of fast players,” James said. “We can take good, easy shots, get a lot of fast breaks and play good defense.”
Williams emphasized the importance of not making mistakes to his team following a preseason scrimmage at Palmyra High School. He believes once his team gets into the groove of things, they could be dangerous.
“We’re going to continue to build,” Williams said. “We haven’t been able to add all of our stuff yet because it is early in the season. We still have more stuff to add, but we have to make sure we’re mastering the fundamentals first.”