Described by coach Jason Taylor as being “OCD,” the junior forward focuses on the team’s offensive sets, rebounding and team defense.
“On the court, I get really irritated when we’re not doing the right plays,” Nayman said. “When coach tells us to do something, I want to do that. When we’re not all doing that, it gets on my last nerve. If he is writing on the board and we’re not organized, that bothers me, too. I talk a lot and feel like I’m a leader on the floor. I’m always letting everyone know what’s happening.”
This season, the Lady Knights have started off 9-5 with a 2-1 mark in Region 7AA (A) play. Much of the reason for River Ridge’s record to this point is due to its attention to detail and effort on the defensive end of the floor.
“As far as the last few games, our identity has really been defensive-minded,” Taylor said. “In the last two games, we lost, but we played good enough on defense to win. … Defensively, I think we are a good team. Our defense leads to a lot of offense for us.”
From the beginning of the summer through practices and into games, defense is something that has been drilled into each of the Lady Knights’ players.
“I think the thing is that we don’t have any standout 30-point players in the game,” Nayman said. “We don’t have one of those players. We are all pretty equal in our skills. Defense is the common ground where we can give it our all and work hard on it. Our assistant coach says that, if you work harder on defense, then offense will come easier. We don’t have any crazy plays that players go in and do crazy stuff. We really do have to work for everything that we have. That’s why it works.”
On average, River Ridge is giving up 43.8 points per game. The Lady Knights have held their opposition to fewer than 40 points five times, with two of their Region 7AA opponents held to fewer than 20.
River Ridge’s lone losses have come against strong competition — Class AAAAA opponents Woodstock and Cherokee, Class AA power Model and a pair of Kentucky teams during a holiday tournament.
As a second-year varsity program, River Ridge has no seniors and is coming off a surprise appearance in the state tournament after its inaugural season last year. The Lady Knights finished 14-17, but won critical region tournament games against Coosa and Armuchee — a team that had beaten River Ridge twice by double digits in the regular season — to qualify for state.
This year, River Ridge has been much improved during the regular season, but the players and their coach also realize that, in region play, they will surprise nobody.
“I think that was definitely the case last year as far as that game we had against Armuchee in the quarterfinals of the subregion tournament,” Taylor said. “We surprised Pepperell that same week (in the regular-season finale). I think a lot of teams were surprised that someone competing in their first varsity season competed as well as we did.
“I don’t think we have that element of surprise (this year). Other than a really bad fourth quarter against Model, we played them tooth-and-nail, though. They know that they will have to beat us again, and this time, it will be on our floor. We went from being a surprise to having a bull’s-eye on our back.”