CLOVERDALE -- For the second time in as many years, the Cloverdale girls' basketball team is entering into a season with a new head coach and a load of questions that need to be answered. The Clovers lost some key players from last year's 4-18 team and after two games this season, they are still struggling to find an identity.
For first year CHS head coach Tom Anderson, this season is going to consist of a lot of growing and finding the will to compete as the games wear on. To achieve that, it's going to take a lot from his squad to get the task done.
"Well, we really need to see improvement on a daily basis," Anderson explained. "If we're not seeing improvement on a daily basis, we're falling even further behind because, you have to remember, every day you're practicing, so are all of your opponents. If they're getting better and you're not, that's not good because we're already behind the eight-ball.
"We have to see a better effort of trying to get better, trying to think of what it is we're trying to accomplish and get it done and that's going to take a little extra effort," he added.
He noted the team needs to get to a place where they are still trying to make the extra play, even if they are losing a game -- for nothing more than to show themselves that they can do the things they need to do to win.
Right now, the Clovers are in need of someone to rise up and take over the team. Anderson hasn't seen that just yet, but is hoping that the right player will rise to the challenge.
"We need someone to step up and just kind of take the leadership role and say 'Hey, we're going to get better. This is not acceptable,' and kind of motivate each other and it not always comes from the coaches," Anderson commented. "The players have to take some leadership, some responsibility for their skill work, their attitude and their hustle.
"We have to really get tougher in that area. Two hours a day at practice -- its just almost isn't enough to get caught up. They're going to have to do some work on their own too," he said.
When asked who he thought would step up to fill that role, Anderson explained his philosophy about who should take control of a team.
"That's hard to say, because you always hope it's your seniors," he said. "Whether they're starting or not, whether they're playing a lot or not -- take ownership of your team. Basically, you always like to think the seniors 'it's your team. Take ownership of it and lead by good example,' so that's what you hope will happen. Right now, we really don't have that yet. I'd like to see some of them step up."
He also acknowledged that a lot of improvement can come off the court as well. He believes that if players mentally go through processes such as shooting and plays, it will make them better players. Like he pointed out, the mind controls your muscles, so if you're working it, you're practicing off the court.
An area he thinks his Clovers could get better at to improve their overall game is on defense. He stated that even if they become a defensive minded team, they still are going to have to find ways to score. The biggest issue Cloverdale is dealing with is the lack of fundamental skills.
"It's just the ability to pass the basketball," Anderson explained. "We're just really not good at passing and you have to be able to enter the ball some way. Even if you have a dribble entry, we're struggling dribbling the ball, passing the ball -- fundamentally our ball skills are very, very poor. Until we can improve our ball skills, we're going to struggle go get the offense run, making good decisions moving the basketball and then on top of that we're not a very good shooting team. We don't have anybody you can say can just flat-out shoot the basketball.
"You put those to combinations together, where our ball handling skills aren't very good, dribbling and passing and then we're not a very good shooting team -- you're really going to struggle offensively until you improve those," he continued.
Something Anderson hopes to bring to the Cloverdale basketball program is a developmental mindset. He said players are entering the high school level without the basic skills they need to be successful and to bring about a change; it's going to take a team effort from the bottom up.
"I've invited junior high coaches to our practices and I haven't seen them yet," he said. "We shouldn't have to be where we are. Talent-wise, maybe you don't have the athletes, but they still should be able to dribble the ball, pass the ball and do some of those things. We have got to try to find those people who will work in our youth program and maybe attend the clinics and summer camps and try to get a lot of this stuff done before they get to high school. Because, really, it's too late to get to a high level that you want to get to.
"To compete for championships, you have to have kids coming in that are already fundamentally sound and then it's just a matter of how good can you get with the talent you have. So yeah, we want to try to institute something and get the people involved that can really help us turn this around," Anderson added.
For this season, Anderson said he would view a successful season as one where the Clovers are able to take the court and push teams that are perceived to be better than they are to the final seconds of games. He said that's going to take his team getting more fundamentally sound, hungrier and stronger.
He knows they have a lot of work ahead, but Anderson wants the team to take it a step at a time and focus on the task at hand.
"Right now, we're not a very good basketball team," he said. "Could we be? Well, that's what we're trying to do, but it's going to take a lot of concentration, a lot of effort and some leadership to get it done. It's not whether you fall; it's whether you get up."
Cloverdale will compete in the Putnam County Tournament tonight beginning at 6 p.m. at South Putnam.