This is Tex "Goodshot" Smith reporting after two solid weeks of summer basketball.
Going back to the beginning, I covered the Morris Ladies Shootout, and that dovetailed into the Braidwood Shootout that led into the Morris Shootout late last week. In that span, over the six days of coverage, I'd estimate having hit up the local hospitality rooms for three to five pounds of pork chops, gondolas, italian beef and pizza combined. It was all good and much appreciated.
I came away with the most extra material from the Morris girls tournament ,and that was partially due to having a new Redskins head coach and tournament director in Kate Carey. Both she and Minooka coach Ray Liberatore are looking optimistically at the future of their programs, despite combining for 14 wins last year.
Liberatore told me that his team specifically asked to play in the afternoon on the first day of the Ladies Shootout because his team was holding a camp earlier that morning.
"The main reason we asked for afternoon is because we have our junior high camp this week. Some of those things you go by what's available," Liberatore said. "Like (Tuesday), we had five of our girls at the camp working with the younger girls. So that's a great teaching experience for them."
Liberatore said that the turnout for the camp was better than expected.
"I'm excited for the future of the program. We had 45 girls, mainly seventh and eighth graders here this year," he said. "I've been working with the freshman girls because our head freshman coach is out of the country. I can tell you that our incoming freshman group is a nice group. It's been a lot of work so far, but there are a lot of good things happening."
Despite inheriting a team that won only six games last winter, Carey's team is once again young, but now a little more experienced.
"I think the confidence on a lot of their parts has improved. Julie (Jurasits) has come a long way as far as that she is not so hesitant to take shots and the lead. She's an upperclassmen and owning it. Her confidence seems to have skyrocketed," Carey said.
"Even Leona (Burton). She's no longer the little baby freshman on the varsity team. She's always been one to drive to the hoop but she is taking more outside shots now. Jess (Ponce) is a quiet attacker. She does a great job of attacking the basket and pushing the offense along. Both inside and outside, she's been a great shooter."
Burton, now a sophomore, says that the Redskins just want to distance themselves from the 2012-13 season altogether.
"We always want to put that behind us. We're not the same team that we were last year," Burton said. "We want to win as many games as we can and do better in our conference. Last year we were like 0-10 in the conference and this year we are hoping to be No. 1. We're always striving to be our best."
Which ultimately means that Carey needs to find a way to pull all the best characteristics of her team together.
"The best way to describe it is that we have all of these elements and right now we need to bring them in and put the complete package together. Right now its just elements. There is tons of potential with this group," Carey said.
"I just talked to them and we probably have as many skilled players as any team here. Jade (Fischer) had eight points today, so there is an alternative scorer if other teams shut down the other three. Jo (Nowicki) should also be a scorer for us. I see tons of great things. It's just a matter of putting it all together."