When Gerry Andersen arrived to coach the Lely girls basketball program two years ago, he knew he’d have to change the culture and build the team from the ground up.
In that first season, the Trojans had just enough players to field a freshman, junior varsity and varsity team – winning just one game at the varsity level.
The Trojans increased their win total to eight last year and nearly made the playoffs, falling short in the district semifinals after an injury to point guard Cherrie Terry severely derailed their hopes.
This year, Lely seems primed to take the next step in the program’s development.
“I don’t think a winning season and a playoff berth is too much to ask with this group,” Andersen said. “The first six or seven players on the varsity roster are very solid and the girls have really bought into the concept that we’re a family.”
Andersen said the girls are not only becoming better basketball players, they’re also becoming much smarter.
“Their basketball IQs have gone way up with more experience,” he said. “In previous years, I’d have to do a lot of the thinking for them on the court, but now they’re letting their instincts take over and doing the right things on their own, which is wonderful to see.”
A pair of talented freshmen have joined what was already a solid junior-laden core. Gabby Wetzel has taken over the point guard position, allowing Terry to slide over to the No. 2 guard spot. But really, Andersen is confident in either player running the show.
“They’re interchangeable in that both are capable of playing each position,” he said. “They both run the offense well and both are great shooters. And defensively, they’re going to be a tough combination to get through when they lead our full-court press.”
Lely returns five key players from last year’s squad – Terry, Savvy Weeks, Katie Miller, Kenya Stewart and Bella Holan.
These days, there’s so much optimism for the program, Andersen said. The Trojans have 36 girls across the three teams – 10 freshmen, 14 JV and 12 varsity players. The interest is so intense, Andersen actually had to cut eight players this year, something he hasn’t had to do in the previous two years.
“There’s a lot of excitement here, the numbers are way up from where they were two years ago,” Andersen said. “But more than that, the girls are really buying in to the system. With every email I send out to the girls, there’s been a consistent tag line at the end. And that’s ‘play hard, have fun, exceed expectations and believe.’ This year, they’re reciting that tag line back to me during practice. Once the girls buy in and believe, great things can happen.”