DONNELLSON - Taylor Hickey has to remind herself to be patient, because she knows the Central Lee girls basketball team is going to be together for a while.
Hickey, in her second season as head coach, does not have a senior on the roster. It’s five juniors, five sophomores and four freshmen.
Coming together, she said, is going to take some time.
“I’ve been giving myself a lot of self-talk about patience, because I struggle with patience,” Hickey said. “We had a team meeting before the season, and I talked to them about how it’s about progression. The first couple of weeks of the season, even up to Christmas, we’re still going to be talking about development and learning from and about each other. It's all about progress each and every day, each and every week.”
The Hawks, who open the season on Saturday against Winfield-Mount Union, don’t have a lot of players who have logged varsity minutes. Kenna Sandoval, who averaged 12.4 points per game last season, played in 18 games with 16 starts. Taylor Jones played in 18 games, and Jayden Mueller played in 21.
“They were the only ones to have good minutes last year as freshmen,” Hickey said. “Now I’m going to be looking at the younger girls to come in without any varsity minutes.”
That has challenged Hickey and her assistants.
“My coaching staff and I have talked a lot, before and after practices, about how we want to run practices, because there’s so much development that needs to happen,” she said. “I would say the challenge is experience. These girls have a lot of energy, there are a lot of smiles, they want to be at practice. But it’s the experience of knowing what to do if something doesn’t work. If something breaks down, if option 1 or option 2 doesn’t work, you don’t just fall apart, you have to think about what else could be there.”
Hickey has leaned on those players with varsity experience to become leaders.
“We’ve talked to those three at almost every practice about how much their leadership means to the team,” she said. “I told them you have to have expectations in your teammates, and that’s going to make all of us better.”
Hickey does have some older players — juniors Ellie Lake and Sydnie Larson and sophomore Riley Gregory — who don’t have varsity experience but are familiar with the program.
“I’ve seen a lot of growth in them in their confidence,” Hickey said.
Hickey also likes incoming freshman Lizzy Mason, who will be the point guard.
“She’s played with the All-Iowa Attack, a team I played on, and I’ve worked with her a lot in the summer on her skills,” Hickey said. “I’m really going to push for her to be a leader in the point-guard role.”
Hickey knows the work to build this team is just beginning.
“This is going to be a development year, learning every game,” she said. “We just have to keep progressing.”