THS hoops teams wrap up summer leagues
After logging hours upon hours of game time in various leagues and team camps, members of the Tonganoxie High basketball teams have been given a simple message from their coaches: Don’t let preparations halt until November.
The Chieftain hoops teams wrapped up their respective summer leagues last week, all but ending a month of learning and fine-tuning the skills they’ll try to implement when practice gets under way this winter.
The THS boys logged nearly 30 games this summer, including several at a varsity league at Rockhurst University. The Chieftains met five times in June for three-game sessions. The six-team league was comprised of Kansas schools Tonganoxie, Turner, Shawnee Mission West and Schlagle, as well as Missouri schools Center and Raytown.
Coach Shawn Phillips’ squad returns plenty of varsity experience in 2013-14 — recent graduate John Lean is the only regular starter who must be replaced — so the summer was primarily used to further establish team philosophies and individual roles.
“We had a good opportunity to hit the ground running,” Phillips said. “I think we’re starting to understand what we have to do in order to be successful and we’ve got a lot of buy-in from our guys, so overall, I think we’ve had a pretty productive summer.”
In addition to the Rockhurst league, the Chieftains participated in team camps at Creighton and Pittsburg State University, as well as a shootout at Atchison High. Many players also play for Amateur Athletic Union teams, which generally ramp up their schedules in July.
Several players will shift their focus to the football field when fall draws closer, but according to Phillips, there’s no reason they can’t continue to prepare themselves for the upcoming basketball season.
“One thing we really tried to challenge them with at the end of last season was to get stronger in the weight room,” he said. “I’ve had several coaches from other schools comment that our guys look a lot thicker. We want to continue to get physically stronger going into next season.”
Unlike their male counterparts, the Chieftain girls had plenty of question marks on the varsity roster following last year’s run to state. The graduation of Jenny Whitledge, Madee Walker and Hannah Kemp leaves three starting spots up for grabs on a team that rarely went more than seven deep a year ago.
The new-look squad got plenty of opportunities to establish its identity, including trips every Wednesday to Bonner Springs for a weekly summer league.
“Our goal was to learn our team this year, and summer is the optimal time to do that,” assistant coach David Walker said. “We used it to get girls a lot of experience and to try a lot of combinations of people. As the summer progressed, we were able to figured out positions and things of that sort.”
The team’s summer schedule also included a team camp in Harrisonville, Mo., and a trip to Lawrence for the Jayhawk Jamboree.
There will still be open gym sessions available in July, but for the most part, players will be responsible for continued work in what Walker referred to as “driveway time.”
“It’s time for them to decide where they want to be come basketball season,” he said. “They have an idea where they’re at right now, but the question is, are they happy where they are?”
Official practice for the 2013-14 season will begin on Nov. 18.
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