St. Mary hoopsters very young, but plenty of potential seen in developing squad
St. Mary's Jayde McFee dribbles during basketball practice Monday as the Marauders prepared for this weekend's tournament at Carlton Comprehensive High School. McFee is the lone Grade 12 player on this year's St. Mary team. Herald photo by Mark Janzen
St. Mary girls' basketball coach, Dwayne Gareau, was blunt.
"Other than Junior (Jade Hendous), we all suck at dribbling," Gareau said, with a bit of a smile mind you, as the team gathered at centre court before practice Monday at St. Mary High School.
The girls laughed, but, for the most part, agreed.
So, practice consisted of dribbling between their legs, dribbling behind their backs, dribbling sitting down, and just about any other way a basketball can be bounced from hand to floor and back to hand.
Such is life for a St. Mary team that boasts just one Grade 12 (Jayde McFee) and will likely be the youngest team in any game they play this year.
"We're young," said Shaun Hunko, the Marauders' other coach. "But they're a great group to coach. They're very eager and athletic. It's exciting, because there's a lot of potential."
And with only four girls returning from last year's team — McFee, Hendous, Althea Matheson and Tori Glynn — and a large group of Grade 11s, the tendency could be to look toward 2010-11. But Hunko has a different idea.
"The long-term goal is to build for next year, but at the same time, after seeing a lot of the teams in our category this year, we maybe have a shot this year," he said.
"I think in our category there's a lot of parity. There are maybe a couple of teams that are ahead, but there's probably anywhere from six or seven teams at the top that are really close.
"And we're right there."
And while their dribbling may need work — except for Hendous, who will fill the shoes of her graduated sister Megan at the point guard position — St. Mary's size up front should go a long way in making up for it.
"We're a taller team this year, which is a first for us," Hunko said. "We're looking to score more inside. Our shooting hasn't been as strong as previous years. We need to improve in that area, for sure, but because of that we need to score more from the inside."
And that responsibility will largely lie with posts Glynn, Kayla Tycholiz and the vastly improved Meagan Manson. The latter performed admirably for the Marauders at a weekend tournament in Yorkton, where St. Mary lost 43-16 in the championship game to crosstown rival Carlton.
"We'll rely on Tori and Kayla a lot up front, but Manson will also be a key contributor," said Hunko. "She's been playing in the post and doing a great job. She's a little bit shorter, but she plays big — and played really well this weekend."
And that might be the most important aspect of this group: young players filling big roles.
"We're really young, but really athletic," McFee said. "We run the floor a lot, but it's a really young team. But we've played two tournaments and there's been a ton of improvement, and it's only going to get better. We work really hard and we all get along pretty well."
The next test is Friday when the Marauders play Balgonie in the opening game of the Carlton tournament.
It's a long season, but at this early juncture it seems the St. Mary youngsters are just starting to see where their potential can be.
And if there's ever a need to dribble while sitting down, they should have that mastered.