LAWRENCEVILLE — Normally, when a basketball team’s leading scorer from the previous season sees her average drop by 10 points per game, it’s cause for alarm for that player and her team.
But for Archer’s Madison Newby, it’s cause for celebration for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that in the 5-foot-7 junior’s case, the drop was by design.
The addition of Hebron Christian transfer Amber Skidgel and a very strong crop of freshman from Archer’s feeder program — including several from last year’s middle school county champions at McConnell — meant Newby would be asked to contribute in far different ways than she had ever done so before.
“I knew my role would change when I got a whole (rest of the) starting five of most likely (future) major D-I players,” Mann said. “I have Amber (Skidgel) who can shoot the 3, (senior guard) Alesha (Mann) who can drive and post players that can finish. So, I just break (down) my role as a true point guard.
“When Amber (was ruled) eligible (by the GHSA), it became evident to me that I was going to have to be a true point guard and pass the ball (more) because my major game is driving. Now that I have (more) shooters, I can drive and kick (the ball out to the perimeter).”
For a lot of players who enjoyed the success Newby has as a scorer throughout her career — she averaged 11.7 points per game as a freshman and improved to 18.5 points per game, which led the Tigers and was fourth in the county, as a sophomore last season — such an adjustment might have met with some resistance.
But according to Tigers coach Ryan Lesniak, Newby not only embraced the idea of the change in her role, she actually initiated it.
“She said it to me,” Lesniak said. “It was probably around October, after we found out Amber would be eligible. … For a 16-year-old — and a (preseason) Super Six at that — to be able to recognize and accept that is amazing. She’s not putting up the points she used to, but she’s leading the team.”
True, the change in Newby’s role has worked out for everyone involved.
She’s still able to contribute to the Tigers’ offense by scoring an average of 8.5 points per game, but she’s deferred most of the scoring load to others like Skidgel, who has posted 14.1 points per game.
And that development has taken both a load — both physically and emotionally — off her.
“I’ve always been a major scorer,” Mann said. “So, this year it was harder to adapt to my role, but I embraced being a true point guard — passing the ball off and picking up on defense and getting more assists and steals. So, I have to work harder on defense than on offense.
“This year is fun because I know that the pressure isn’t always on me to score. I’m thankful for my teammates.”
Indeed, while Newby’s scoring has dropped she has contributed to Archer’s best-ever start (13-1 and 6-0 heading into Thursday’s Region 8-AAAAAA showdown with Parkview) in other ways.
Her already strong assists numbers have increased to a team-best 4.7 per game, which several of her teammates have benefitted from.
“(Opponents) can’t just focus on one player,” Lesniak said. “It wasn’t just the addition of Amber. We knew we had more than just one scoring threat … to help take the load off Madison. And we’ve been able to introduce some new things offensively and get more points on the perimeter.”
But it is on the other end of where she has perhaps made her biggest improvement, leading the team with 4.4 steals per game and playing lockdown defense on opposing guards.
“I’ve always loved defense more than offense,” Newby said. “So, I was happy that I got to play harder on defense and expend so much energy on offense every play.”
And Newby’s trust in her teammates should also come as little surprise, especially considering at one of them hits considerably close to home.
Her younger sister Autumn Newby is just one several freshman from last year’s McConnell team — along with Linsey Marchese (8.9 ppg) and Tia Shorter (3.4 apg, 1.8 spg) — to make an immediate impact, with the 6-2 post ranking second on the team in scoring (11.9 ppg) and blocked shots (0.7 bpg), leading in rebounding (7.1 rpg) and ranking third in assists (2.1 apg).
“I played AAU with my sister, so we always had chemistry,” Madison Newby said of Autumn. “And I knew she was a really good player and that it wasn’t going to be hard for her to transition to being a varsity starter.”
As for Newby’s own transition, Lesniak isn’t the only one pleased with the results so far.
The coaching staff at Georgia State, where Newby is already committed despite being just a junior, has also taken notice.
“I think they’re pretty happy,” Newby said. “They obviously know I can make my own scoring opportunities. So, seeing a different role, they like it that I can dish the ball off, and they love defense.”