by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley girls basketball team doesn’t play until November, but that doesn’t mean it can’t prepare early.
Over the summer the Eagles have participated in team camps, workouts and scrimmages against other teams to help build chemistry.
While the team will return all of its rotational players, the summer workouts will help some of the underclassmen learn head coach Randy Draper’s system and get accustomed to playing varsity level basketball.
“They went well,” Draper said of his summer workouts. “I was pretty pleased. It’s a time to learn about your team a little bit and what they do best. I feel really good about our team and what we need to do as individuals. The summer has been good for us.”
It’s especially been valuable to Grain Valley’s freshmen players.
“I really like our freshman class,” Draper said. “It’s hard because we return our top eight players from last year’s team. It’s not like six people are going to come in and get jobs. There are jobs available. We had some young players who were just outside that last year that have improved enough that they can take some spots.
“Some of these girls will separate themselves this winter and people will figure out who they are.”
During the summer camps, about 20 or more have attended each practice and about 25 went to team camps. Draper has been pleased with the turnout. In June, the Eagles played in a couple of shootouts against other schools, including one at the University of Central Missouri.
“There are actually a lot of freshmen here,” said junior Finley LaForge. “There are probably more freshmen here than upperclassmen. They are going to workouts, and they want to get better. There are a couple of freshmen I am excited to see.”
Junior Annabelle Totta echoed similar sentiments.
“You can tell that the younger classmen are excited to come,” Totta said. “When they come, they work hard. I think we are going to have a strong team this year.
“The freshmen aren't afraid to drive. They aren’t afraid of the upperclassmen. A lot of them come in before the workout starts and shoot and stay after and shoot.”
In the workouts, Draper has been able to experiment with different offensive plays and defensive schemes and see what works with each five-person group he has on the court. The Eagles also play during 5-on-5 scrimmages, work on dribbling, screens and defensive sets.
“It’s fun to get up and down with your team,” LaForge said. “The scrimmages are like games.”
LaForge added the summer workouts are invaluable, especially for the freshmen.
“It helps prepare you for what the season is going to be like,” LaForge said. “When winter comes, you are ready for the season and know what to expect.
“We have already made huge gains in our team chemistry from last year. We are so much closer and we like playing with each other. That will help a lot.”
Junior Annabelle Totta waits for a teammate to make a cut before making a pass. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley head girls basketball coach Randy Draper goes over a play with his team during a summer workout. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Junior Finley LaForge whips a pass to a teammate. Photo credit: Michael Smith