Maroons are set to open Seth Garrett era

Leading a basketball team through preseason drills and helping it prepare for the start of its season is nothing new for Seth Garrett who spent 10 years as an assistant boys basketball coach at Bellevlle West.

Preparing the Belleville West girls basketball team for the start of its season, well that’s Garrett’s latest challenge as he takes over the head coaching reigns this season.

“I’m enjoying it. The girls are working hard and doing what they’re supposed to in practice. There is a little transition going from boys to girls and I’m trying to get eyes use to what I’m seeing,” Garrett said before practice on Tuesday. “Obviously the speed of the game is different but fundamentally and in terms of running what we’re supposed to run and doing what we’re supposed to be doing, the girls are a little more worried about that. About doing things right.

“If we are running a certain offense or working on a certain defense and I explain this is where to need to be and why the girls are a little more receptive to that. Whereas the boys rely more on their instincts.’’

Being fundamentally sound will be a key for a young Belleville West team which graduated two of the top players in school history — Shay Fluker and Imani Berry — from a team which finished 25-6 and provided state power Edwardsville with its toughest games of the season a year ago.

The Maroons return four players — senior Erika Harvey, juniors Jamie Adams and Anjanice Jones and sophomore Sydney Thurwalker — who saw considerable playing time a year ago. Numbers are also up as Garrett said that 33 girls are currently in the West program.

West opens its season on Saturday when it battles Class 2A state power Central at the O’Fallon Tournament at 4 p.m. The Cougars were the Class 2A state tournament runner-up a year ago.

West will be led by the 5-foot-11 Jones and 5-10 Thurwalker inside. Jones averaged only 2.5 points per game last year but has good skills and could be one of the top rebounders in the Southwestern Conference this season. Thurwalker will play the forward spot and like Jones has the potential to become one of the SWC’s best in the not too distant future.

“I don’t like playing two post players and so Sydney will play what they call in college as a stretch 4. She’s got good basketball instincts, she’s stronger and is more offensively is becoming more aggreessive,” Garrett said. “Anjanice (Jones) is a very good athlete who is moving much better this season. We still have to get on her a little bit to move her feet once in a while because she sometimes stands and watches a little too much. But she’s got good hands and when she wants too she can really rebound.”

Harvey, a 5-7 senior, will be one of the Maroons leaders. The top offensive player returning after averaging 6.5 points a year ago, the tough-minded Harvey is an excellent 3-point shooter, good defender and loves to compete according to Garrett.

“Erika’s been a little nicked up so far in the preseason, but we’re counting on her to have a good senior year for us,” Garrett said. “Offensively, she’s a streak shooter and when she’s get it going its fun to watch. She’ll play the No. 3 spot for us, and she’s strong enough and physical enough to defend bigger players.”

Adams is a 5-5 guard and another very good 3-point shooter.

But one of the keys to the Maroons season will be their depth and the ongoing of freshman point guard Chamya Darough.

“I still haven’t decided on a starting lineup and we will probably use several different ones duuring the season,” Garrett said. “We’re probably 10 to 11 deep and the man who sits at the scorers table and is responsible for changing the numbers on the board when players go in and out isn’t going to like me very much.

“We’re going to play a lot of different lineups and a lot of kids will get a chance to play.”

Darough, a 5-5 sparkplug, will direct the Maroons offense at the point guard spot. And while playing a freshman point guard in the alway tough Southwestern Conference may not seem wise, Garrett has the confidence that the talented Darough can handle the job.

“It’s a lot to ask of a freshman and I’ve asked Chamya several times already is she thinks she can handle it and she’s assured me that she can. I have a lot of confidence that she’ll be able to do the job,” Garrett said. “In terms of court awarenness and overall basketball IQ, she’s fine.

“Will there be bumps in the road for her? Sure there will. Be as long as she continues to learn and work hard and progress like I think she will, everything will be fine.”

Also competing for a starting spot are seniors Kayla Juenger, who did not play basketball last year, opting to contentrate on volleyball. The 6-foot Juenger figures to be a presence underneath for West this season.

Seniors Samantha Schell (5-6), Ali Hanger (5-6) and Denahzia Pulliam (5-7) along with sophomore Kaylee Hanger (5-8), senior Deanna Watkins (5-3), sophomore Kwansiha Quarles (5-9) and highly-touted freshman B’Aunce Carter (5-11) will all get a chance to show what they can do under Garrett’s fast-paced scheme.

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean