Girls’ Basketball Preview
As girls’ basketball tryouts end, the players get ready to start the season and face their rivals Shawnee Mission South in their first game. Last year, East’s varsity team won one game and lost the other 20. This year they’re determined to turn that around with new coaches, hard work and a strong bond between the players.
Sophomore varsity player Emma Linscott thinks that practice has been more intense this year to help the team build their skills. At practice they do offense, defense and fundamental drills.
“We’re trying to improve our teamwork and our intensity this year so we can outrun a lot of people,” Linscott said. “We’re not a big team, so we don’t have a bunch of six-foot-something people.”
Varsity player and junior Kyle Haverty, thinks that teamwork will be the key to winning more games this season. She’s planning to improve on working as a team and build team chemistry.
Returning varsity coach Lauren Lawrence is also trying to bring the team closer together. At a team meeting, she gave each of the girls a “secret sister” on the team that acts as a rally girl. They give each other candy or notes on game days to pump each other up.
“I think it’s going to be such a helpful way for us to get even closer and know that someone is paying attention to you,” Linscott said.
All but one of the five coaches are new this year. The new varsity assistant coach is Heidi Delaney, the new junior varsity coach is TJ Taylor, the new sophomore/developmental team coach is Drew Steffan and the new freshman coach is Matt Jacobsen. Haverty also thinks the new staff has already helped the girls to create a stronger bond.
“I love [Coach Steffan] already. He really bonds with all of us and he’s just a really nice guy and he knows what he’s doing,” Haverty said.
Heading into the start of their season, and their first game against South, girls’ basketball is ready to leave last year behind and use their talent and teamwork to win more games.
“I think we’re starting from the bottom basically,” Linscott said. “We have a lot to prove.”
New Boys’ Basketball Coach
Sweating profusely, a few dozen high school boys sprint up and down the court at the sound of their coach’s whistle. Sophomore basketball coach Jake Kupersmith yells at the players to work harder. They pick up their basketballs and start swerving through cones doing dribbling drills. This is what Kupersmith likes to see in his players: energy.
Kupersmith’s journey to East has been one with many stops along the way. He grew up in Olathe and attended high school at St. Thomas Aquinas. Kupersmith began his coaching career as a volunteer with the basketball program at Kansas State University, but worked his way up to a graduate assistant on scholarship.
“Early on [in my career] it was grunt work, making sure gear was organized, laundry, travel responsibilities,” Kupersmith said. “When I got older, I ran offseason workouts with the players and typed up scouting reports for the coaches.”
Kupersmith worked under two coaching tenures, Coach Bob Huggins and Frank Martin. Under those coaches, Kupersmith learned valuable skills for life and for coaching.
“It was very demanding and very intense, but in a good way,” Kupersmith said. “Being 18 and 19-year-olds and having grown men trusting you with things in their program was very humbling. But at the same time it taught [me] accountability, time management, organization and how to interact with people.”
Kupersmith finished up school at Kansas State in 2010 looking to find a basketball related job. After all jobs in the basketball world froze because of the NBA lockout in 2011, Kupersmith moved to Orlando, Florida to work for a family member flipping houses and selling mortgages. After a year, he realized his true calling: coaching. he moved back to Kansas City to search for a job.
Now the as the sophomore coach, he is looking to bring the skills taught by Huggins and Martin with him to East.
“The energy was incredible [at tryouts],” Kupersmith said. ”We coaches always have energy but when the players bring it, it makes it really fun to coach.”
Kupersmith needs more hustle than normal from his players for his new high energy scheme that he is bringing to the sophomore team. It is more fast-paced than it has been in the past.
“We are going to be up and down flying in your face,” Kupersmith said. “It’s going to be more high speed and high tempo. The games are going to be tough.”
Sophomore Sam Friedmann is looking forward to playing for Kupersmith. One reason he is excited for the season is Kupersmith’s basketball knowledge and positive attitude toward the players.
“He knows pretty much everything to know about basketball and teaches us what to do and how to do it,” Friedmann said. “I can’t wait for the season to start.”
Although any coach wants to win, Kupersmith focuses more on the effort and preparation of the players than the overall record. Most importantly, he cares that they compete.
“[The East coaching staff] are competitors and you expect [the players] to compete for them,” Kupersmith said. “I’ve always been a believer of not being lucky, because luck is just a revenue of preparation. We will just try to go 1-0 that day and see where the chips fall after that.”