Well, at least a team employing this breakneck-paced style is making its way to my fair state.
Coach Bunky Harkleroad and the Glenville State Pioneers women's team are traveling to Elizabeth City State on Nov. 12-13 for a tournament. Honestly, I can't tell you how excited I am. And, sure, Elizabeth City isn't exactly a short drive from the friendly confines of Rockingham, where I and this blog reside, but it will be my only chance to check out Coach Harkleroad's squad.
Remember them, right? The Pioneers finished 18-10 overall and 15-7 in the NCAA Division II West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, good for a tie for fourth in the standings. Not bad for an encore; it was Coach Harkleroad's first season at the school.
Glenville State put up other impressive numbers, as well, with guard Donita Adams finishing second in the nation with 22.6 points per game. She and her teammates led all D-II teams in scoring at 95.9 points, and as a unit, they set all-division records with 29 made 3-pointers on 62 attempts in a 133-72 victory over Bluefield State on Dec. 16. Pretty impressive.
This year, Coach Harkleroad hopes to use a solid recruiting class to fill the hole left by Adams, who completed her eligibility, while also assisting his depth. He essentially went with two separate groups last season, which was effective, but hopes to be able to mix it up a bit more. He talked about this in a e-mail this week.
Coach Harkleroad: "We’re going to be deeper this season simply because we’ve got more helpers. Our shift schedule is something that we’re really trying to get a handle on now. Last year we had two groups plain and simple, this year I think we can have three but we’re still trying to figure that out. We’ve got a lot of possible combinations and we’re figuring out now who plays well with each other."
There are some returnees that will help, too. Last season, four players joined Adams in double figuring scoring, and they all are back for more. It starts with Autumn Davis, a 5-foot-7 guard who averaged 12.9 points. There's also 6-2 post player Kristen Golden (12.4, along with a team-leading 6.6 rebounds), along with two more guards, 5-7 Ginny Petties (10.3) and 5-10 Beth Deren (10.3). And point guard Miranda Reed is back - she filled up the stat sheet with 6.6 points per game, 3.8 assists and 2.3 steals. Her assist and steal numbers led Glenville State.
Right now, Glenville State expects to have two Division I transfers as part of the expanded shifts: guards Tenisha Wilson, from Northern Illinois, and Danielle Woodmore, from Ohio University. Coach Harkleroad also has athletic 6-foot Mishae Mills, a junior college transfer from Morton CC in Illinois. She averaged 16 points and 15 rebounds a year ago and should help out inside.
And there might be another D-I transfer ruled eligible, giving the Pioneers a pretty nice foursome of recruits.
Coach Harkleroad: "We’ve actually got three D-I kids on our roster but we are waiting on a decision on the third transfer to see if she’s eligible. We have a scrimmage this Saturday so hopefully we’ll get some kind of decision between now and then. It’s been tough trying to balance rotations not knowing for sure who is and isn’t eligible. Keep your fingers crossed. I think The System helped us get these student athletes because they were all looking for a fresh start and liked the culture that we’ve been able to create here at Glenville State. Our kids work extremely hard but they are allowed more freedom on the court and we spend so much time working on fundamentals. We are encouraging them to take chances, make mistakes, and figure things out. Sometimes it’s a little overwhelming for them. We’ve got a good group of people on our team and I think our players really sold our style of play to the newcomers and that was the biggest reason we were able to get some talented kids in here."
The System also has helped create a buzz around campus for Coach Harkleroad's second season.
Coach Harkleroad: "This is a sports crazy community and we did have a good 2009-2010 campaign. There is a lot of interest and our kids seem determined to have a great year. We’ve tried to be efficient with our time and really do a great job with our conditioning program this fall. We did a lot of intense, short, total body circuits that really worked our kids hard. Most of our players are in the best shape of their lives. Our practices have gone well, we’ve practiced some really long hours through the first 10 practices. I’m usually not very comfortable with that but there’s so many new faces and so much to get in that it’s been necessary. I’ve had to make myself remember the 'less is more' mantra and try to keep things simple. We scrimmage this Saturday and I hope that we are indeed ready. Like other System teams we will be a work in progress and I think it’s going to take us some time. We have ZERO home games in November and face some pretty darn good competition."
(As I wrote, a couple of those games come in the great state of North Carolina. Sorry, I'm so giddy I had to add that again.)
Another thing I wanted to know was how he, his team and The System were treated in the WVIAC, a brutal conference with many solid teams.
Coach Harkleroad: "I think The System has been good for the league. In terms of reactions from other coaches I’m not really sure how to answer that. I can tell you that we saw a lot of different looks and I think we got everybody’s best shot last season. When we lost games our opponents were really excited about beating us and I think that’s a good indicator of respect for our program. There are some outstanding coaches in this league and there will be no chance of us being able to surprise anybody this season."
Finally, I wanted to know what lessons he learned in his inaugural season, things he can use to have even more success in 2009-10.
Coach Harkleroad: "First of all this league is so tough to compete in, especially on the road. You can’t take any nights off and have to be prepared every day. I think our players and our community are convinced that The System can be highly successful at this level but also realize how tough it is. To my knowledge there aren’t many D-II or D-I schools that are willing to try and play this extreme. As a coach I’m always trying to learn, especially when it comes to being efficient with our time and getting the most out of our players. As coaches we probably all need to spend more time getting to know our players and understanding their personalities as individuals and as a team. While it’s hard for teams to prepare for us during conference play because we aren’t very traditional we also have difficulty preparing at times because we will see so many different looks against our attack."
A huge thanks to Coach Harkleroad, whom you can follow on Twitter @CoachHarkleroad. I hope he and the Pioneers have a great season, and you know you can check back here for updates. As he said, there is a scrimmage Saturday, which should be our first System action of the new year. Sweet!