The squeak of sneakers on waxed hardwood floors punctuated the steady thrum of conversation. Florescent lights reflecting off the yellow padded walls gave the room a bright glow. Groups of girls wearing loose jerseys and shorts from sixteen different basketball teams stood around the edges of SM West’s auxiliary gym, loosely swinging string backpacks and chattering idly.
The girls are there every Monday at 6 p.m., ready to compete in the Sunflower League Summer League. The program is designed to prepare high school girls’ basketball teams for the upcoming season, as well as allowing them a glimpse of their competition.
East’s Summer League team, compiled of prospective varsity and JV players, has a 3-5 record. They beat Shawnee Mission South, Lawrence and Blue Valley Northwest, and lost to Shawnee Mission North, Lawrence Free State, Leavenworth, St. Thomas Aquinas and Mill Valley.
The team took a hit this summer when three of varsity’s leading shooters graduated, leaving the team without its usual high-scoring offensive players.This blow to their offense creates a challenge for head coach Scott Stein.
“Shannon McGinley and Caroline Nick and Caroline Dodd scored the majority of our points last year,” Stein said. “Always a major concern is that none of the people that will be playing this year can be relied upon to be prolific scorers.”
Anna Sheridan, a shooting guard for the team, is feeling the loss of her teammates as well. Along with the camaraderie acquired through hours of playing basketball together, the girls had formed a friendship off the court as well.
“Obviously, you’re very lucky when you have girls that are putting up 16 to 25 points a game, but they’re also great friends and are fun to be around,” Sheridan said. “I’m gonna miss them.”
Sheridan remains optimistic, however, and believes that the team can bounce back from the loss of their teammates.
“I definitely think that we lost valuable players, but I feel like there will be players that will step up this year and fill the spots,” Sheridan said. “I think if we just focus on defense to prevent other teams from scoring, our offense will take care of itself.”
Because there are many players hoping to make the team, mostly JV girls and returning players, Sheridan is grateful for the Summer League. She feels that it gives the girls a chance to become familiar with each other’s playing styles and allows them to develop a rhythm.
“When you play games, that’s when you learn the most about the other girls in real situations that you’re going to encounter,” Sheridan said. “It’s a good way for us to see what the team is like under pressure.”
Along with getting a sense for new teammates, the team also gets a chance to size up the competition, observing their strenghts and weaknesses on the court. These observations aren’t always reliable, however, since Summer League teams are not strictly made up of either varsity or JV players. In fact, most teams are usually a combination of the two, which makes it difficult to gauge the team’s true skill level.
For the most part however, the teams are treating the summer games like practice.
“These [games] definitely aren’t as serious as the ones during the school year,” Sheridan said. “They’re just to test the waters, and basically just get us to be playing basketball and have us be in game situations… Summer League is more to get warmed up, see how everybody plays, and find the areas that we’re going to need to work on.”
Stein is satisfied with the amount of effort he sees the girls putting in, despite the fact that they’ve won only three of eight games.
“I’m like any other coach,” Stein said. “I’m extremely confident before the season begins. The girls are working hard, they’re doing what they’re supposed to do, they’re working on their game. From that particular standpoint, I’m pleased.”