RV girls left with big shoes to fill, but continue taking steps forward
It may be too early to tell for sure, but if the start of summer league play is any indication, then the Royal Valley girls basketball team should be in good shape heading into the 2015-2016 season, according to coach Corey Katzer.
After getting through team camp at the end of May, the Panthers kicked off summer competition in their rotating league in June, starting strong with a pair of victories in very different manners.
Royal Valley blew out Atchison in the league opener before picking up a come-from-behind victory over Santa Fe Trail to start the summer on a positive note.
There are a lot of positives for this team, according to Katzer, despite having to fill the large shoes of graduated seniors Jaycee Worrell, Leslie Schuetz and Kassidy Dahl.
Just going into year two with Katzer at the helm, the coach noted the players are leaps and bounds ahead of where they were last summer. There is a better understanding of the coach’s system all around and he has already seen that paying dividends in camp and summer league play.
“You have an idea of exactly what to expect. The older kids know the system and you could tell it. They were able to jump right into it and run it,” Katzer said. “You could tell that these kids are used to playing together quite a bit with the camaraderie that they had and how well they gelled out there on the floor.”
“Last year, there was a lot of thinking on the floor trying to run our new system and all that. This year, they’re just able to go out and do it without thinking,” Katzer added.
With a better understanding of all those moving parts, Katzer noted that gives him the benefit of being able to add some other variables into the system this summer.
Losing some height with the graduation of Dahl in particular, Katzer said that will force the Panthers to be even quicker this season and preemptively he has started to install a dribble-drive offense to help speed up the pace, which he said his players have taken to already.
“The familiarity with it allowed us to not only add additions to our offense that we’re bringing back, but then allow us to add some new wrinkles to things,” Katzer said. “I think that really excited the kids as to the things that we’re going to be able to do.”
With student-athletes being pulled in so many different directions over the summer, Katzer (also the softball coach at RVHS) is very aware of how full his athletes’ plates can be.
Katzer said he likes to give his players some semblance of a summer, but he still noted how important camp and competition can be to get kids used to playing together and picking up experience in the coach’s system.
“If we’re going to get to where we want this program to be and continue to improve and be competitive in the Big Seven, you still have to put in that time and work and I think part of that is the summer league,” Katzer said.
Team chemistry is also an underrated trait when it comes to high school basketball, according to Katzer, and he has already seen that paying off for the Panthers.
On the first night of summer league competition, which Royal Valley hosted, Katzer noted his players spent their three hours between games together and have already been effusive about the team-bonding they want to continue to do when the official high school season begins.
In the meantime, Katzer noted the playing opportunities in the summer (and in the fall for some, like many of the sophomores) will help build basketball IQ and retention of the concepts the coach has been going over with his players.
Staying active in the fall, whether doing cross country or volleyball, is something that Katzer said will also help the athletes and the team start ahead of the curve when high school basketball practice officially starts in November.
By then, Katzer said he wants the team to be playing even faster, though he did note he has already seen a lot of positives from the Panthers in the summer.
Numbers in summer camp were right about where the coach expected them to be and he was pleased to see seniors like Macy Putnam and Kate Hanson take to leadership roles rather quickly, while he also applauded the progress of the underclassmen. That is something he attributed to his assistant coaches last season, Brad Alley and Kyle Porter, prepping them to play a larger role this coming winter.
While the Panthers will likely have some more changing and adapting to do, their competitive nature last season has their coach in an optimistic mood looking forward.
“I think a lot of coaches are excited this time of year, but just the fact with the youth that we have and the senior leadership we have of Macy and Kate, I think the sky’s the limit for this group,” Katzer said. “If we continue to improve, if I do my job and continue to be able to develop these kids, I think it’s really exciting as to where we could be at the end of next year.”