Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Another college team moves to The System: Say hello to the Lady Aggies of Oklahoma Panhandle State

No surprise, really, for those of us paying attention to the success of all The System teams last season. Another team is ready to make the plunge after treading lightly into the abyss in 2010-11: the NCAA Division II women's team at Oklahoma Panhandle State University. The Lady Aggies finished 3-23, including 0-10 in the Heartland Conference, but that included a heart-breaking 111-106 loss to regular season champ Newman in the season finale.

Gazing at the statistics, it appears OPSU is a perfect candidate, given the depth it showed in playing time and scoring. There were 11 players who averaged at least 13 minutes of run, and 10 of them averaged at least 4 points (none more than Tra'Niqia Dishmon's 8.0). So the Aggies appear to have the players to run The System, and coach Brad Vanden Boogaard has been an admirer of this style of play for a few years. He is good friends with Rusty Kennedy, who used it at Clarendon Junior College in Texas before moving to Our Lady of the Lake University.

Now, Coach Vanden Boogaard plans to rattle his Heartland Conference foes with it. He was kind enough to respond to some e-mail questions I sent him late last week, and here is the entirety of our conversation:

How instrumental was Coach Kennedy in your decision to go to The System?

Coach Vanden Boogaard: "Rusty and I talk a couple times a month. He did have some influence on my decision to make the change. When Rusty was at Clarendon running The System, he was in a similar situation that I am in. We are very enrollment driven university with limited scholarships, forcing us to carry more players than your normal team carries. Playing The System will assist us in keeping more people involved and improving within our program helping us keep players in our program for four years.

"We need to make a change; what we were doing was not working. The other influential part is our location, we need to force people to play a different style than they want because most teams do not enjoy having to travel to our place so we will try to make it even tougher playing at such a fast pace with controlled chaos."

What did you know before you started your research, and has your perception changed since you've learned more about The System?

Coach Vanden Boogaard: "The first time I heard of The System probably was in the late 1990s or early 2000s. I was an assistant men’s coach at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa and we were hearing about Grinnell playing the game a complete different way. At that time I really didn’t learn much about it. I really started learning about it three years ago watching Clarendon play.

"The more I learn about it the more my perception changes. I really enjoy how it helps keep everyone involved in our program and keeps them excited about the opportunity for them within our program. At first glance it looks like a team that is completely playing without much of a plan or a purpose. After learning the goals and understanding the thoughts/research of the innovators of The System it really fits our situation.

"Also really fits my thoughts on playing the game with great effort and playing The System forces you to play every second with great effort."

How would you describe your style of play previously?

Coach Vanden Boogaard: "In the past I was a very conventional basketball coach. We played a half court style, really emphasizing man-to-man defense. Offensively we would run when we could but played motion offense looking for a good shot willing to wait until late in the shot clock."

What has been the reaction to those you have told? From your assistant, Alisha Sladek, and your players?

Coach Vanden Boogaard: "When we started to implement it late last year, I think my assistant thought I was crazy. She had played for me when we had some success the conventional way so she was wondering why; since teaching her about it she really enjoys it.

"As for the players they bought in well and are excited to see what it can do for us. It helped that we have two players that have played in The System before and really helped sell it to their teammates. As for our AD he really has backed me on the change. He is also our men’s coach and says it is really exciting for anyone watching the game."

What do you hope to get out of The System?

Coach Vanden Boogaard: "Just like any competitor ultimately I am hoping it brings more wins to our players. After the past four years of seeing players come and go because they have not been happy with their playing opportunity, I hope this brings some continuity to our program helping us keep more players in our program for four years. I hope this will bring more team camaraderie, too.

"Our administration and fans have been very supportive during my four years, I am looking to repay them with some success and excitement when they come watch us play."

Great stuff from a relative newbie with The System. Here's hoping the Aggies have tremendous success next season, and I plan to stay in touch with Coach Vanden Boogaard to follow his progress.

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