After watching his Southwestern Illinois College women’s basketball program fall on hard times the past two years, Blue Storm coach Mike Juenger is going back to the basics.
And for Juenger, it all starts with hustle, desire and defense.
“If you look back at the years when we went to the national tournament, we were annually among the top 10 in the nation in scoring defense. We would give up 55-56 points a game and while we struggled at times scoring ourselves, we were able to win games because we played great defense,’’ Juenger said. “The last two years we’ve given up 70-80 points a game and we can’t score. So we’re losing more games in two years than we did in seven or eight combined before.
“I want kids here, who first want to be here and want to do what is necessary in the classroom to be a part of this basketball program. And I want kids here who want to work hard and play hard every minute they are on the court.’’
Valle, Woods join SWIC program
In 6-1 Zaria Valle of Hazelwood Central and 5-10 Sam Woods of Triad, Juenger feels he’s found two players who fit the bill as both have announced they will attend and play basketball at SWIC beginning in the ‘16-17 season.
A 6-1 center, Valle averaged just 2.6 points per game for a Hawks team which finished 20-7 this past season. A true inside post player, Valle is a solid defender who can rebound.
“Zaria is most comfortable with her back to the basket and while she had good offensive skills from 6-10 feet, we need her to improve on her perimeter game a little more,’’ Juenger said. “But what I like most is that she’s got good long arms and she can rebound. What we’ve lacked, especially last season, was someone who could rebound.’’
Woods can also rebound. The third offensive option behind senior all-stater Sophie Thompson and high-scoring Abby Burroughs on highly-successful Triad squads the past two years, Woods averaged 7.1 points and 7.3 rebounds this season for a Knights squad which finished 23-4 and was ranked among the top 15 Class 3A teams in the state.
“Triad had the one great player in Sophie (Thompson) and another very good player in (Abby) Burroughs so on most nights, Sam was the third option and her job was to get the ball to Sophie,’’ Juenger said. “But again,she comes from a program which has been successful and she knows how to and wants to win. She can score, but what I like about Sam is that she rebounds and plays hard.
“Another aspect about these kids is that they are coming in here (SWIC) feeling like they have something to prove. They both have a chance to play at four year schools and this is their chance to prove that they can.’’