By Blake Faith
The Mt. Zion girls basketball team is going to look different than last year. The Braves have a new head coach in Steve Marvel and Marvel is already integrating change into the program.
Coach Marvel has spent most of his career as an assistant coach at the college level. He has also served as the Director of a club team that is the Central Illinois Predators.
The changes Coach Marvel is implementing start at the defensive end. Last year, the Braves played more of a zone defense. This year the Braves will play a man-to-man defense as well as press the ball.
Offensively, the Braves will push the ball and run a five-out or four-out at times. The offense will be a reacting offense to what the opposing defense is doing. Coach Marvel wants his team to read what the defense is doing whether it’s what the defense is giving up and another example is how the defense reacts to screens.
“I told my kids, we were not gonna run a lot of sets, because I don’t want them to be robots,” Coach Marvel said. “I want them to be basketball players.”
Coach Marvel has named his captain this year in Abby Scharf. Scharf is a four-year varsity veteran who is going into her third-year as a starter. Coach Marvel expects her to average a double-double in points and rebounds and to be their primary lockdown defender.
Scharf is ranked at No. 85 in the top-100 girls basketball seniors in the state of Illinois. Scharf said that she is excited to be the captain and is ready to share her varsity experience and what she has learned from past players to lead this team and give what she learned to the younger players.
“Individually, I want to play hard and just be a leader on the court,” Scharf said. “I just want to leave it all on the court when the year is over.”
Other players that Coach Marvel is expecting to have big impacts and help lead this team include Denver Anderson, Bracie Barnes and Maddie Kendall.
Anderson is only a sophomore, but has played at the varsity level and made an impact. Anders is a player that can be a lockdown defender to other teams, make impacts offensively and defensively and Coach Marvel expects to average a double-double in points and rebounds as well as be a leader in the team for assists.
Barnes is another returning starter from last year. Barnes will be utilized in the paint and Coach Marvel believes her size is hard to match at the high school level. If that size can be utilized, Barnes will be another player expected to have a huge impact for the team.
“I think those three have to be our leaders across the board in a lot of statistical areas between points, rebounds, and assists,” Coach Marvel said.
Kendall is a freshman that Coach Marvel will be placing responsibility to set up the offense and be a defensive presence.
Leadership wise, the players mentioned anger Coach Marvel says has to lead from the get go and has to buy into the defense. He wants the Braves to be known as a culture of lockdown defense. That when the Braves play an opposing team that team doesn’t want to see the Braves again in the season.
Coach Marvel also mentioned that there are two seniors playing this year, that two seniors are back after a few years of absence from the team and that they will be solid contributors to the team and he anticipates them being key role players in their rotation. They are Hannah Sago, guard, and Macie Fleming, forward.
“I’m very excited to have them back playing basketball,” Coach Marvel said.
Coach Marvel’s expectation to be at the end of the season are the Braves are an above .500 team and can compete for a regional title. Coach Marvel also wants his team to be a celebrating team that celebrates each other. That starts on the bench when big plays are made such as a charge call, a good defensive possession or a big score.
“I want our culture to be that we’re together and we celebrate each other’s successes,” Coach Marvel said.
The team has already made that a priority to get people to come to their games. The overall thing said between the team from players was the hype and excitement they’re going to offer as a team. They all said that they can’t wait to be hype for each other on the bench and on the court.
“They want other people to see the hype they have for each other and that is a huge buy-in already for our culture,” Coach Marvel said.
Coach Marvel’s overall message to readers and the community is come see his team play. This team will be an up-tempo offense and an exciting team to watch.
“Come out and watch this team and enjoy it, it’s gonna be a fun game,” Coach Marvel said. “ I think sometimes people don’t expect the girls or the women’s game to be interesting or entertaining. And we are going to change their minds on that.”