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Basketball Preview New coach attempts change of direction for North Collins

LOOKING TO CREATE — Junior Sam Gier will be a key returning player for North Collins. Photo courtesy of David Eckhardt.
North Collins will be trying to rebound from a disappointing 2012 season, under a veteran coach new to the school’s girls basketball program. The Eagles, who went without a win last season, enter 2013-14 under first-year head coach John Lewis.

Lewis has many years of coaching experience, spending time with Springville, Cleveland Hill, Mount Mercy and St. Francis in prior seasons. He said that his goal is to revive girls basketball in North Collins.

“We have to start by changing the attitude,” Lewis said. “There is a certain mindset that we have to develop around here and that is the first thing that we must accomplish. Once we get the girls to start believing in their abilities, then we’ll start to see some growth. The ability is there; the only thing we can do is try to constantly improve as the year goes on.”

The Eagles only have eight players on their roster. Due to the short bench, they’re looking to receive contributions from all eight. Losing several starters from a year ago, the team will rely on some new faces for productivity this season.

Juniors Jenna Keppel, Ashlynn Laukhuff and Arrika Bley will all be looked to for production during their first year at the varsity level. Senior guard Taren Mancuso and third-year varsity junior Sam Gier should provide some leadership for North Collins. Forward Destiny Kennedy is the team’s other senior.

“I think we’ll learn a lot about our team this season; we’ll need to see which players step up,” Lewis said. “I’m still learning new things about them. I become more familiar with my players each day at practice.

“I think Taren will be a key contributor for us and I like what I’ve seen so far from Arrika,” he added. “She didn’t play on the team last year and I really think she has the ability to be a good player for us. I told her she can be an all-star by next year if she keeps working.”

Lewis believes in a fast-paced game. His teams are known for pressing on the defensive end and having an up-tempo offensive style. Despite not winning a game last season, Lewis thinks that the season ahead will be very telling for the program’s future.

“This year will be very important for the program; I’m really looking forward to coaching these girls,” Lewis said. “I like to play an up-tempo style of basketball, so we will have to be in great shape, as a team.

“Especially since we only have eight girls; I don’t believe in bringing up players from the junior varsity level unless it’s absolutely necessary,” he added. “I’d rather just give all of our varsity players as much playing time as possible. We’ll get two cracks at every team in league play and we’ll look for improvement from one game to the next.”

After falling to Gowanda on Nov. 26 and playing at Christian Central on Dec. 3 to start the season, North Collins opens at home Dec. 5 against Buffalo Science Academy.

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