There's a lot of teaching on going on in the Bridgeport High School gym during the three week high school summer practice period. Girls basketball coach Dave Marshall is trying to break in quite a few new players.
The Lady Indians 2011-2012 season ended in heart break. Bridgeport lost in the "AAA" State Championship Game to Greenbrier East after leading for most of the game. The Tribe was also the top ranked team in the state for the majority of the season. Before the championship game, in March, Bridgeport had not lost since December. The title game loss was just the second loss for the Indians all season. Bridgeport hopes to ride the wave from last year and let it carry over into a successful season come November.
The extremely talented team from last season has graduated, save one player. Guard Miki Glenn is the only returning starter for Bridgeport, but she's a good one. As a junior Glenn joined the 1,000 point club at Bridgeport, averaged more than 18 points a game, was named Captain of the First Team All-State squad and finished in the Top 5 of voting for the State Player of the Year.
"I definitely try to get them involved in the offense but there are certain points in games when I know I have to take over, and they know that too. So, they try to give me the ball in the right spots and set screens and stuff to get me open, but I can't do this by myself. I still need my team around me, and we're just trying to help them get better," said Glenn.
Though Glenn will, undoubtedly, be The Tribe's biggest weapon this year, in the three week summer practice period Coach Marshall is trying to teach the other players to play without Glenn. He doesn't want his team to become dependent on one play. It's also a very real possibility that come the 2012-2012 basketball season, opposing teams will double and triple team Glenn, forcing other players to step up and help out.
"Anybody understands that she's one of the top players, if not the top layer in the state. That she is key to everything we do this year, but they have a very important role in what's going on and what I'm trying to get them to do is to not stand around and watch Miki.If they want to do that, they need to buy a ticket. They're coming along with that and when they do, this could be a good basketball team," said Coach Marshall.
Both Glenn and Coach Marshall admit that it's been a challenge working with inexperienced players. However, it's also created a good, healthy competition between girls fighting for playing time. Coach Marshall reminds his players, summer drills are not tryouts It's an opportunity for Coach to let the girls know what they need to work on.
Five minutes at Bridgeport practice would tell you, the team may have a few kinks to work out, but a precedent has been set with Tribe basketball that workouts will be intense. Coach Marshall still prides himself on defense, but the team has had to work a little more on the offense in summer drills.
"We've got a lot of what we call 'puppies' out there. I mean, girls that are new to everything that's going on so we're just trying to get them enough of the x-s and o-s and the basic skills so that we can try to compete in the summer league games and travel game we're going to," said Coach Marshall.
When working on the offense in practice, Coach Marshall often tells Glenn to not take shots. He's encouraging the other players to find their own skill package whether it be shooting, driving into the paint or playing the post. Defense almost comes naturally to the Bridgeport team so quite a bit of time in the three week period is being spent on the offense.
"We work on just getting our offense ready. Since we've got some new people coming in, try to get them used to the flow of everything. We definitely work on our defense because that's a big part of what we do. We work on shooting. Basically, just getting the new people acclimated to what we do, so they're ready in November," said senior Guard Glenn.
The three weeks the team has together is the perfect time to "break in" the younger players. It also gives the older ones a chance to become more confident. Since last year's team was so dominated by seniors, most of the players are used to being followers and now is the time for them to become leaders. Coach Marshall says he likes what he sees so far out of his team. He's especially pleased with the freshman. He sees things in that group that can't be taught, and that is encouraging.
Bridgeport balances gym workouts with summer league games. The team plays in a league in Fairmont but will also be traveling to Parkersburg and Charleston for games. Coach Marshall, like many other high school basketball coaches, sees summer league games as a great opportunity to play teams he doesn't normally see. Coach Marshall is also giving his team the weekends off. Several of the players also play AAU basketball and the weekends are when they'll go to tournaments. Coach Marshall says AAU basketball only helps players get better.