The Lely High School girls varsity basketball team jumps rope.
Runs passing drills.
Does a shoot-around.
Then begins a scrimmage.
And they are smiling, having fun.
Nick Young’s team has two seniors, both playing leadership roles on a team that sports five freshman starters, four sophomores and two juniors.
Seniors Marie Clermont and Alex Seekings saw hard times the past two years. Last year’s team won no games.
Young calls his co-captains warriors. They work with the younger players, and one day Seekings hopes to be a coach.
“I can’t say enough about what they mean to the team,” Young said.
Although winless a year ago, Young said he had fun with his players.
“It was a different kind of fun,” he said. “We were not successful on the court, but were successful off the court and in the classroom.”
This year his team, although young, has been involved in previous Amateur Athletic Union competition and has a little more basketball skill.
“The talent allows me to do a little more coaching than teaching,” Young said. “It makes it a little more fun, but we are still trying to find out what we can do as a team.”
As a team they are 7-9.
Goals this season were to win 6 games and win a district game - something it hadn’t done in six years.
Now they have upped their goal to eight wins and are 6-2 in district play.
In fact they are second seed in the Class 4A, District 12 tourney that starts Feb. 2. They will play Immokalee, a team they have beaten twice in close games.
Freshman starters are Stephanie Neill and Jackie Licout at wing, Victoria Howard in the post, and guards Chelsie Dangler and Heather Chairez. First off the bench are sophomores Manolitha Joseph and Veronica Perry. Close behind are sophomore Joanne Petithome, juniors Christina Octavien and Veronica Kochis, and Seekings and Clermont.
Young says the team shoots well and is getting better as they learn more about basketball. They have trouble against taller, more experienced teams.
Admittedly not the best practice team, “they have a great attitude and once they strap shoes on for game time they are ready,” Young said. “Youth also plays a role. The freshman are getting adjusted to classes, to teachers, it is a lot to take in.”
Young also says the strong backing of the parents is a positive. The Lely Mothers Club has been a major help, raising money to send the team to college games to gain more experience about the game and to solidify the team.
Three years ago Young’s team won nine games and were looking to a bright future. Then the school district added Golden Gate and Palmetto Ridge High Schools. Only two players came back the next season.
“As long as this team stays together they will get better each year,” Young said.
“I’m realistic with them about my expectations of their learning to play the game. I tell it like it is. They will work for their wins. In a couple of years why not look for a 20-win season.”