Evan Massey’s Hybrid Rebuilding Program
By John Ring
When the Silver Streak girls basketball started in November, you expected to see some initial problems from a young, green team. It’s just that you expected things to get better as the season went on.
In their first game, Galesburg led for most of the way against Illini West but ended up losing 69-65 because of turnovers and the inability to block out on the boards. Those were two traits that the Streaks never were able to shake.
“The frustrating thing was that we did not improve during the season as much as I would have anticipated,” said Streaks Coach Evan Massey. “We had a deadly combination of turning the ball over offensively and giving up offensive rebounds. Because of these two things our opponents averaged ten more shots a game which is a swing of about eight points a game.”
Galesburg pieced together a five-game winning streak that put their season record at 8-6 but a five game losing streak reversed the process. They never recovered from that.
It was also a year of drama, too. Two players started the season off missing a third of the games for breaking team rules. 6’1” junior Myneka Warner was dismissed from the team after the Bloomington loss. But off the court distractions can’t be blamed for the final 14-18 record, the most losses by a Streaks team since 1978.
The Silver Streak young guards were too often pressed into oblivion, the same way Galesburg players did to the opposition during the 1990s. Warner and Jessica Howard developed a nice inside-outside scoring threat but then Warner was gone.
The key to recovery would seem to be based on two factors, a hybrid so to speak: improvement of the returning players and the integration of the 20-5 sophomore team into varsity players next year.
“My job will be to convince the returning players that they have to be willing to work in the off season to become more skilled basketball players and to become stronger. Getting a year older just won’t get the job done. They will have to invest the effort to improve,” said Massey.
“As for the turnovers, we simply must invest the time and become better ballhandlers. Not to be lost in things, we need to become better shooters. The rebounding, we got better towards the end of the year. Both Jamie Johnson and Shelby Pacheco showed the physical play on the boards we need but they both need to get better.”
Massey sees the competition for playing time as a key for this to work. “I’m confident that with the combination of returning players and the players coming up off the sophomore team, there will be enough competition for spots that we will get some kids working to improve their game.”
“I hope moving the sophomores up will translate into success at the varsity level but they have to improve their skills. The two biggest things they can do for us are immediately produce competition for spots and also bring up our intensity level. The sophomore group reminds me a lot of the Sara Wood and Ami Pendry group, very intense and very hard workers and very coachable. I look for this group to change our team personality similarly to what Wood’s group did.”
The veteran Streaks coach was pleased with the play of Johnson, who was promoted to the varsity late in the year. “We probably should have pulled her up with the varsity at Christmas. She gave us someone who was physical on defense and could go inside and score in traffic. Jamie’s finish to the season really was a bright spot. Everybody is their own player but Jamie showed flashes of doing things as a post that were similar to what Amanda Gunther did and that is exciting. We need to get her to be a three-point threat in the off season.”
Massey also expects freshman point guard Baylie Boyer to show improvement over the summer as well. “It’s tough being a freshman on the varsity and it’s even tougher being a freshman point guard. Baylie is such a good athlete and has quickness. She showed a mental toughness this year and did improve her outside shot. Like all of our guards, she must invest the time in the off-season to improve her skills.”
“We need to keep a lot of those sophomores in the program,” added Massey, “not just Johnson or Megan Young or Tai Peachey, who if they continue their work, will have an impact on our program next year. But there are four or five other players off that team who can be important for the varsity. Markley is a girl who can have an impact down the road as a presence in the post and Mickey Rodriguez is one of the best three-point shooters we have ever had.”
Howard turned out to be Galesburg’s most reliable scorer. She still has two years left for her Silver Streak career. Pacheco is another key player returning, along with Boyer. That’s a nice nucleus to build around. It should be an interesting summer of basketball.
Massey isn’t used to losing and neither are Silver Streak fans. But he held up well during the year. “No one likes to lose but from a coaching standpoint as long as players work hard, are loyal and accept coaching, you can still have a positive experience. Most of our players were able to do those things but some did not.”
Let the rebuilding--- and fun--- begin. It will this summer at John Thiel Gym.