By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– For what it was worth, the 2018-2019 season for the Sprague Girls Basketball team was a dang good learning experience from first-year, first-time Head Coach in Jami Morris to the girls on the court.
For a program that has been to the first-round of the postseason three times (2009, 2011 and 2017) since the creation of the 6A classification back in the 2006-2007 school year, the 2011-Olympian graduate in Morris focused on the off-the-court culture last season and now is turning her focus to the on-the-court success entering her second season.
“For this team, I think last year was such a building year of changing the culture which I think we were dealing with more outside stuff. Dealing with a lot of stuff off-the-court,” said Morris. “Raising expectations, totally revamping what’s going on.
“And it took away from a lot of the progress on the court. But I think I’m seeing the fruits of that this year of changing the culture and setting higher expectations and rising to the occasion.”
Morris points to the ‘basketball’-classroom where she’s teaching the girls the terminology and court geography of the game such as what are the hash-marks on the court, what is a power-box, being on the weak-side, etc. so when they get to the court for practice or a game everyone is on the same page.
Coming from a basketball background and a basketball family, it’s taking the second-year coach some time to adjust to a coach’s role of teaching the knowledge she knows to her players as they walk-through their warm-up routine Monday morning into afternoon.
But with an young returning core from last year’s Varsity players like Baylee Butler, Tyla Harris, Abby Haas, Heaven James and Chloe Rogers, the foundation has been laid out for them entering this season.
“The second-year of anything is so much easier,” said Morris. “That doesn’t mean there’s going to be hard times to come but, I think just being familiar with each other I’m glad that we have that young core last year even though it wasn’t necessarily successful to outer eyes. I think these girls have done a really good job of not letting other people define their success.
“They know what we’re doing on a daily basis and we’re just going to build from there and I’m really excited to see what they can do.”
Aspen Deconcini returns to the program after taking her sophomore year off as her athleticism and speed from the soccer pitch will help Sprague out this season as well for when the season kicks off December 4 at Reynolds.
The Olys home opener won’t be until December 10 versus North Salem.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald