By James Kay
OPRF's varsity team struggled to find its identity last season. They went 11-21 and had a negative net rating (-3.6) in their 2019-20 campaign. However, the team believes it is ready to compete again and by the look of its new scheme, anything can happen. Here are three reasons James Kay thinks you need to pay attention to OPRF this season.
This team will shoot 3s on 3s on 3s
If you walk onto the basketball court at your local gym, you will find someone chucking shots from 24 feet away from the hoop. Why? Because Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry (and NBA analytics departments) changed the way basketball is being played across all age groups. OPRF head coach James Coughlin acknowledged this on Nov. 15.
"We are probably going to shoot more threes than any other team I have coached before," said Coughlin. "That is the way basketball is going, so we will probably set a new record [of 3-point shots attempted] every year from now on. We jacked them up in summer league, and we don't have any shy shooters."
The Huskies lost some of their offensive firepower to graduation (including current UIC point guard Ahsha Spencer). To make up for it, attempting a lot of threes might be the way to counter the lack of returning scoring production. By the sound of it, the players are content with the 3-point barrage they are going to have every game.
"The thing we tell them that will get them to the bench the quickest is turning down open shots," said Coughlin.
Tatym Coe's Wizardry
If this team hopes to live and die by the three, one of the reasons it might be able to pull that off is because of the stability senior Tatym Coe brings to the backcourt.
"For a kid like Tatym Coe, she should have been a four-year varsity player, and she wants to win this year," said Coughlin. "She works super hard, she's quick, and is someone who guards all 85 feet of the floor. She's probably one of the 20 quickest guards in the state."
This will be Coe's first year playing point guard (she played shooting guard last year) but her experience as a slashing two-guard might ease her transition into being OPRF's primary ball-handler.
During five-on-five drills, Coe blew by anyone who tried to press her at the top of the key. She has an affinity for being able to finish through contact at the rim while also possessing veteran instincts in drive-and-kick scenarios. In a 3-point-heavy system, Coe's ability to slow the game down when she enters the paint is going to free up the 3-point sharpshooters waiting to be fed on the perimeter.
Another reason to watch Coe and Co. is because of her killer instinct on and off the floor. She radiates confidence and doesn't see this season as a developmental year for her younger teammates.
"We are coming out trying to make a name for ourselves," she said. "We are going to come out and get W's. I believe we are going to be good this year."
Depth and newfound chemistry
Coughlin said on Nov. 15 that he knows what his starting lineup is going to be for the first game, but every player is competing for the 7-10 spots.
"We have 16 players, and I wouldn't hesitate to put a single one in right now," he said. "The last time I had a team like that was four years ago, and we only had 10 players. Now it's on us to get everyone an opportunity and play consistently."
Outside of four seniors and sophomore Lilah Gery, who Coughlin said could step into the second or third scoring option role for the Huskies, this team is mostly composed of juniors. They have size in the backcourt (two 6-footers) and enough length to compete with a complete team like Lyons Township.
However, the biggest improvement the team has seen since the season ended last spring is the chemistry created in summer league.
"This team works for each other more than the other teams I've had in the last couple of years," said Coughlin. "We've had our most spirited practices between June and the first two weeks of the preseason. Win or lose, we are going to play for each other, which hasn't always been the case."
All five players interviewed by Wednesday Journal brought up the improved chemistry of this year's team.
"We made it a point to bond together this year," said senior Karly Cantrell. "Last year, there was a little bit of drama, but this year we are so positive. We eat together all the time and hang out outside of practice. We just have each other's backs."
With a new team and clean slate, OPRF will vie for an above .500 record for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
Answer Book 2019
To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.
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