This will be the Silver Streaks' third go-around with The System, while the Prairie Fire take the plunge for the first time. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what 2011-12 holds for both of these schools, and we don't have to wait much longer to see what's going to happen: each opens it schedule Tuesday night.
GALESBURG HS GIRLS' TEAM
Coach Evan Massey made the decision to go with The System back in 2009, and I wonder sometimes if even knew what an amazing run his team would have. National records along with a trip to the Class 3A Elite Eight really don't even tell the entire story. He has young people in Galesburg excited about basketball, excited about playing for the Streaks and excited about The System. Pretty amazing.
Last year, Galesburg finished 28-7 with that aforementioned run that ended a game short of the Final Four. This included its first Regional title since 2007 and first sectional title since 2003, not to mention those records. Here is a bit of what the Streaks accomplished:
- National record for made 3-pointers, boys or girls, with 397
- Illinois High School Association marks for 3s attempted (72) and made (22) in a single game
- IHSA records for 3s attempted (1,476) and made in a season
And, yes, there was that 28-7 record, too. That pushed Coach Massey to a career record of 737-267 as he enters his 34th season, leaving him behind only Dorothy Gaters of Chicago Marshall and Dave Powers of Oak Park Fenwick (both Chicagoland schools) in Illinois girls' hoops victories. Pretty special.
He faces a pretty significant challenge this season. All five starters graduated, taking with them an average of about 41 points, and yet, thanks to the beauty of The System, 12 players saw more than 10 minutes of run in each contest. That leaves seven returnees who were regulars in the rotation: Jessica Lieber, Paige Klinck, Rainee Sibley, Chloe Anderson, Myra Diggins, Sadee Hamilton and Emma Junk.
One of those who is gone is Jessica Howard, who made all-Western Big 6 her final three seasons. She also set a state record with 139 made 3-pointers during her season year before taking her talents to Monmouth College.
As he has the past couple of years, Coach Massey prepared a brief Q & A for the media, and I am fortunate he took the time to send it to me.
(Where do you hope to see improvement this season?)
Evan Massey: We hope we can increase the tempo by being a better pressing team and create a better tempo with our presses. And we feel like while we may not have one shooter we can rely on like Jessica Howard, we feel we may have more players capable of scoring. Hopefully that depth will allow us to be quicker offensively.
(How is the depth compared to last season?)
Evan Massey: We return 7 players who played 10 or more minutes. We will rely on their experience. At the start of the year we plan to have 13 players in our regular rotation. We will see as time goes on if we need to limit those numbers at all.
The offseason also was a special time for Coach Massey and the Streaks. Besides the trip to Chapel Hill, N.C., and North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell's camp (where they all got to meet me!), several players took time to work on their games. Four of them made more than 10,000 3-pointers over the summer -- Allison Mangieri, Junk, Sibley and Lieber -- and another three connected on more than 5,000. Those were Casey Williams, Klinck and Anderson.
All in all, expect big things again from the Streaks, who open Tuesday night at home at 8 p.m. EST against Dunlap.
KNOX COLLEGE NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN'S TEAM
Down the road at Knox, coach Emily Cline joined the revolution and installed The System. Regular readers of the blog (anyone? Bueller?) will remember that Knox is a member of the Midwest Conference, which also is home to the Grinnell men's team and coach David Arseneault, creator of this wonderful style of play.
The Prairie Fire go on the road to play Cornell College, with the game scheduled to start at 7 p.m. EST. Coach Cline was kind enough to answer some of my questions in an e-mail a few days ago.
(How has practice gone so far?)
Emily Cline: We have some very good days and some not so good days. Which is pretty typical for this time of the year. The team seems to have made the adjustment to the System pretty quickly, although we have a ways to go. ... I think The System is a good fit for us, if we can stay healthy.
(Tell us a little about your returning players.)
Emily Cline: Two of our top scorers from last year's team are back: Krystyna Williams & Kelly Ricketts. They are both talented post players that could have big year's for us if they continue to work hard. We also have 3 other seniors that should play significant minutes in the 2 and 3 positions -- Steph Nunez, Lynn Mueller, and Abby Owens. Also, our junior class is very strong as well. Kristin McDonald and Sara Johnson will be at the heart of what we do this season, especially defensively.
(How about your recruiting class?)
Emily Cline: We have eight new players, seven of them are freshmen and one sophomore that didn't play last year. They are a deep and talented group that will be looked upon to contribute immediately. Four of the freshmen will play significant minutes early. It should interesting with that many young kids playing.
(What is the team doing well now? What are the sources of concern?)
Emily Cline: We have really picked up the pace of The System (offensively) pretty quickly. We started with a 12 second shot clock from the 1st day of practice so that helps. We still need a lot of work on referee handles, made press, miss press and our half-court press. So obviously, we have a lot of work to do defensively.
Also, we need to learn to continue to play at System pace and get quick shots. We need to learn the difference between shooting quickly and rushing our shot, as well. Also, it will be an adjustment when we start playing games because there are refs there and we haven't been calling many fouls to encourage aggressiveness but it will be different when there are refs there.
(What are your goals, and are they different with The System?)
Emily Cline: I really don't know what to expect. If we were playing conventional I would say our goal is to win 10 or more games. Playing The System I have no idea what to expect.
I love that honesty. It should be a very exciting season for Knox, which finished 6-17 overall and 5-13 in the MWC last season. Best of luck to Coach Cline and her team.
Well, that wraps up this set of previews. Best of luck to everyone, and I will check back on the progress for all our teams.