BY Duncan MacLean
Dealing with a graduated superstar is one thing; dealing with a graduated superstar who led the team in all statistical categories is another. Throw in losing her best two supporting cast members and you have yourself a conundrum.
That is the matter in Trojan country, where the Fruitport girls basketball team is staring down an interesting season replacing the likes of Iyana Brown, Emily Winicki and Katie Veihl, all while taking on their second run through the O-K Black Conference.
With a few promising young pieces and the know-how of head coach Bob German the Trojans are looking to build into the future with a successful season this year.
Returning from last year’s 8-13 team are seniors Isabelle Raven and Jaydie Hanks along with junior Kailey Carmean. Raven and Hanks maintained starting roles throughout the season, while Carmean was pulled up from junior varsity midway through the year and eventually worked into a starting job.
All three are going to have to get used to a much larger role on the floor.
“What happens sometimes when you have a girl like Iyana is everything starts to happen through her,” German said. “I think we underperformed last year because she can’t do everything.
“We don’t have that this year, and I think that can be a plus for us. I think there are a number of girls who can lead us in scoring and rebounding, but we are going to have to rely on it being somebody different game in and game out.”
What the Trojans lack in experience, they make up for in youth, as three sophomores and four juniors new to varsity fill out the remaining spots on the team.
Taylor Burke, Jayne VanderVelde, Kennah VerMerris, Emily Sullivan, Sydney Bol, Katie Dirkse, Ellie Fisher, Emily Dirkse and Hannah LaBash all will look to grow their games and acclimate to the varsity level as quickly as possible, something that German thinks will happen sooner rather than later.
“Even though we are young, this will be one of the deepest teams I’ve had,” he said. ,“There isn’t a huge difference from player one to player nine. There is quickness and athletic ability all the way down the bench, and I hope to use all of it.
“I have three sophomores up, and the reason they are here is that I believe they are ready to play at this level and contribute.
“I have some girls that have the ability to shoot but are tentative. They have to learn to fire. We have to have confidence in each other and play together. I always preach team basketball and being a family, but this group more than others is going to have to band together.”
WHAT TO EXPECT
Fruitport won’t be a team of world-beaters this season, especially in a loaded O-K Black Conference. The goal of the team is to grow together and build skill through the end of the season, and see how high they can go.
“We are going to battle and come into every competition ready to let teams know that they can’t take us for granted,” German added. “I know Reeths-Puffer lost a lot to graduation, Mona Shores lost some significant pieces and Muskegon gained a few. It will be competitive and all three will be tough to beat, but we will battle.”
The Trojans will start their battle through the season with a Fruitport staple — strong defense.
“We have played good defense for a lot of years and held some pretty good teams at bay. Defense has always been one of our strengths,” German said. “I believe with our quickness and length we will be good defensively again. We have some speed and more size than we are used to. We will have to learn how to use it.
“We have a good group with the ability to try some new things, too. I am hoping we can throw some different wrinkles in on defense, keep our hands active and create some easy buckets.
“It is exciting having a young team. We don’t necessarily have low expectations, but we don’t know how high we can achieve. It is exciting for next year and the future, so we are going to go one game at a time and see what we can accomplish.”
With a strong defensive will and the right attitude, the Fruitport girls are hoping to shock the world this year.
Tribune photo/Duncan MacLean
The 2017-18 Fruitport girls varsity basketball team. Front row (left to right): Taylor Burke, Jayne VanderVelde, Kailey Carmean, Izzy Raven, Jaydie Hanks and Kennah VerMerris. Back row (left to right): Emily Sullivan, Sydney Bol, Katie Dirkse, Ellie Fisher, Emily Dirkse, Hannah LaBash and head coach Bob German.