It can be difficult for a new basketball coach to take over an experienced team. Chad Friess knew that could be the case when Summit Christian Academy hired him to coach the girls’ team.
Only one thing: New is nothing new for these players.
“This group of seniors, I’m their third coach in four years,” Friess said. “They’re unfortunately used to having to get used to somebody new.”
This is a new experience for Friess, too, who was working at a skill-development program in his native Great Bend, Kan., before he heard Summit Christian needed a coach. What he found was a team that went 14-10 last season with four returning starters and a wealth of veteran players.
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That experience certainly has been a plus for Friess, though it also can still present problems. The Eagles may be used to change, but would they be willing to change again?
“It’s been a challenge in a sense of buy-in, just having them buy into what we’re trying to do,” Friess said. “But they’re all doing a really good job learning their role and being willing to understand what that looks like and understand what we need their role to be for us to be successful.”
The leadership roles go to the four returning starters — seniors Abby Nelson, Payton Sprouse, and Kaylee Lunn along with junior Sophie Schooley.
Schooley, a 5-foot-9 guard/forward, has another important and clear role — get the ball in the hoop.
Schooley struggled in that role during Summit Christian’s first two games. But during a 54-40 victory against University Academy on Monday night at home in the first round of the Eagle Invitational, Schooley displayed a wide array of shots as she scored a team-high 21 points.
“What we saw tonight was absolutely what we expect, what we’ve discussed,” Friess said. “I think the first two games she put too much on herself, but she played really well tonight. We need her putting up 15, 16, 17 points a game and doing what she was doing on the offensive boards for us and defensive rebounding.”
Schooley also gives the Eagles some size under the basket along with Sprouse and junior Alyssa Pemberton, who both stand 5-10. Friess has put an emphasis on driving to the basket and looking for inside shots, but it’s not because he has some big girls. It’s more because those are his only big girls.
“We’re always trying to get it inside because we’re small,” Friess said. “We want to get it inside and make them have to make the wrong choice and beat them on the two-on-one on the backside.”
Friess already has been around long enough to know that Summit Christian has never had much postseason success in girls basketball.
Even though the Eagles have never advanced beyond district play, Friess has this group thinking big. He’s aiming for the Class 3 semifinal, which this year will be held at JQH Arena in Springfield.
“We’ve got high expectations for each other and want this senior group to have a special year,” Friess said. “We set the bar high. We want to get to Springfield, and we’re not shy about telling that, but we’ve got a long ways to go.”