Scoring is obviously important to any team, and Natalie Whitman (Jr., Lockport, NY; Starpoint/St. Andrews) is showing her strength. She has a great shot from 15 - 20 feet, driving to the basket and drawing the foul. At 71% from the charity stripe, she is by far the best free throw shooter on the team. She's also crashing the boards accounting for several double-doubles so far this season. If Natalie is ready to carry the team on her shoulders along with a few of her teammates, this group has a shot at some great results. Natalie will only get better as the season goes into full gear.
Bringing the ball safely to its destination is Sarah Lorusso's (So., Lakeview, NY; Frontier) specialty. A superior point guard, she is fearless moving the ball in transition and getting it to the open player, making her the assist leader on this team. Her team lead in steals is also testament to her quickness. One of the characteristics of a great point guard is the willingness to take chances; Sarah has that in her DNA. As this group gets to know each other's skills, especially when there is little time to think on a fast break, Sarah's ability to see the open player will become more and more effective.
A strong starting player is usually much more effective when she has a consistent and talented back-up, and Hilbert is fortunate to have a steady point guard off the bench in Lauren Eggleston (Fr., Clymer, NY; Clymer). Lauren always seems to be ready the moment Coach Peterson calls her into the game; for me, the sign of a great team is a strong bench, and Lauren is part of that strength..
Jessica Jamison (So., Irving, NY; Silver Creek) is often on the receiving end of Sarah's passes, and her ability to slash to the basket or take the three is a headache for her defenders. A solid ball handler as well, Jessica is strong on the boards and in transition. One of this team's strengths is its quickness, which is one reason Jessica is right behind Sarah in steals.
I have enjoyed watching Amber Grosch (Sr., Depew, NY; Depew) on and off the court. As the only senior on this team, she has great perspective as to where this program was in her freshman year and where it is today. Amber is the type of player who can turn a game around or help a player on the bench. I look for her to contribute in many ways down the stretch as this team solidifies its approach.
With Courtney Coots (Fr., Bath, NY; Haverling) appearing more on the court, the team has added more rebounding and scoring punch. Playing time is something that is earned, and she's earning it; her abilities and confidence are improving in real time. As a first year player, she can contribute significantly to creating a winning program.
As Coach Peterson settles on a strong starting five, Jenah Labuski (So., Horseheads, NY; Horseheads) is sealing the deal with solid rebounding, scoring, shot blocking and court awareness. Jenah, like several of her teammates, are just learning how to play together and take advantage of their talents. With more experience comes greater confidence; look for a breakout game soon.
Wyann Jackson (Fr., Red Oak, GA; Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy) has a great 3-point shot and I hope to see her put it up more often. I've mentioned the word 'confidence' several times in this post, and for a three point shooter it is essential. As she develops more confidence in her shot, watch her stats improve dramatically. I am looking for some big games from her during the rest of this season that will have a significant impact on the season's outcome. In D-3 basketball, the trey is huge!
I noticed Kateland Ball (So., Hammondsport, NY; Hammondsport) the first time I watched this team practice. A fierce competitor, she wins the hustle award in my book. Defensively she reacts quickly and can get open for the shot, and isn't afraid to take the three. I love watching Kateland play and I hope she knows how important she is to this team.
Tiara Thomas (So., Geneva, NY; Geneva) is a player who I see breaking out when she's ready... she has the skills and athleticism necessary to make a huge impact on this club and I look forward to seeing it happen.
A team sport is not only competitive with other teams, but it is also competitive within itself, and as such, some players play more than others (trust me, I know this all too well... I rode the bench most of the time!). That's just a fact of life. So for those who don't see much playing time, consider this. There are very few great teams out there without a solid bench that keeps improving. A long season can brings injuries, a player can foul out of a game, and sometimes a player can't play for a hundred other reasons, so a dependable bench is essential. Without a strong bench, starting players have little competition during practices. As a bench player, you should be playing your teammates like you would another team, and improving your game where you need to. Not all basketball players are created equal, so learn your role, do it well, and if you think you should be on the court more, work harder. It is really that straightforward. In the meantime, on the bench, be in the game and get ready to go in. As such, I'd like to mention three players who don't see much action yet during the games, but are just as important as the starting five. Erin Smith (Fr., Woodbourne, NY; Tri-Valley) is strong on the inside, Dashlyn Johnson (Fr., Buffalo, NY; Charter School for Applied Technologies) is really fast which should give her great potential defensively and Jenna Crans (So., Addison, NY; Addison) is not afraid to put the ball up. You should be ready when your number is called because you never know what opportunity it presents. That's true for anything in life.
The athletic talent on the team is above average, which will only help basketball skills improve. So practice becomes important for players and coaches to learn how to take advantage of both. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. This is a very good basketball team. In its first 9 games of the 2012 - 2013 season, this Hilbert team has lost 6 games by a total of 95 points. Four of those games were lost by an average of only 11.5 points. When you think about it, with 39 missed free throws (41-80) and 55 missed threes (12-67) in those 4 games, anything was possible. If this team replayed those 4 games today I think the results are different, because they are improving as a team.
I hope all the members of the Hilbert team know I respect the fact that you are going to Hilbert for an education, and you are playing because you love the game. You have made an impression on me -- a very good impression -- and would make my mother-in-law proud. :)
Good luck against Keystone College and SUNY Fredonia!
― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture