By Rob Tetro
Fulton girls’ varsity basketball coach Derek Lyons knew he had his hands full when practices began Nov. 11.
A year ago, Fulton bid farewell to five experienced seniors. This season, the Lady Raiders will have 11 players on the team, many of them have yet to play a minute at the varsity level.
Lyons said with so many new faces to the team, part of his job has been to have the team in a bit of a reloading mode. However, there is also a part of Lyons’ job that has been business as usual as he builds a winning girls’ basketball program.
The most important goal Lyons and his team have this season is to show improvement on a daily basis. Yet, it’s the second goal he and his team have for this season that shows just how important it is to Lyons that the program continues to move in the right direction.
He feels it’s also important for his team to work hard to have a chance to play in the sectional playoffs this season. Lyons points out a trip to postseason play would allow his team to expand on its goals for the season.
Fulton appears to have a very young team headed into the 2013-14 season. Lyons said his team returns only one starter from last year’s team. Two freshmen are expected to earn starting positions.
The other players on the team are making the transition from JV to varsity basketball this season.
Lyons made it known he expected his players to be in solid physical condition when practices began. Given how physically challenging he knew his practices were, Lyons would be able to tell who was physically prepared and who still needed work.
Fulton begins practice by doing 35-40 minutes of nonstop full court conditioning work. The reasoning behind Lyons wanting his players to do these drills goes beyond wanting them to be in the best physical condition they can be in.
He knows if his young team is going to be competitive this season, it will have to be able to beat their opponents up and down the court.
The teams’ physical conditioning is currently improving. In fact, following a recent scrimmage, the Lady Raiders had little conflicts related to fatigue which Lyons considers to be a very positive sign.
“If they can go through a game and say, man, this is easy compared to what we do in practice, I think we are doing something right.”, he said.
Lyons has named Michaela Whiteman, Nicole Hansen and Sydney Gilmore team captains for the upcoming season. Lyons said the players who display a strong work ethic, earn the respect of her teammates with positive encouragement and succeed in the classroom are players who had the best chance at being named a captain.
Fulton will face some pretty impressive opponents throughout the season. The Lady Raiders will play the likes of Class B powerhouses Skaneateles and Cazenovia and Corcoran from Class AA. Of course, they also will face Class A powerhouses Jamesville-DeWitt and Christian Brothers Academy.
Yet, Lyons suggests his team is excited to be taking on the challenges that await them. As Lyons works to continue to build his program, he feels playing teams that appear in sectional playoffs year after year is a great opportunity for his younger players.
The Lady Raiders have a chance to come away from this potentially daunting schedule with a better understanding of what needs to be done for the program to grow.
Lyons suggests feels his team’s youth and energy could play to Fulton’s advantage. While previous teams have lost to the likes of J-D and CBA, Lyons young team hasn’t had those experiences yet.
“Who knows, they might just come out and be all over the place (and play well).”, Lyons said.