BY PAUL HINES
MT. VERNON —
The summer has been an extra busy time for members of the Lady Rams basketball program this year.
“We traveled a lot in June,” Mt. Vernon coach Jeff Lonnon said. “We actually played more games this summer than we played in the past.”
Girls basketball players have already logged hundreds of minutes in summer league games and still have a two-day tournament in Greenville later this month. At the conclusion of the tournament, Lonnon's squad will have played about 30 games. Stops on the road included McLeansboro, West Frankfort, Benton and Belleville's Southwestern Illinois College. The Lady Rams have also hosted several schools at Changnon.
“The bottom line is it's still a lot of minutes that we were able to get the kids on the floor and try all kinds of different lineups and let lots of different kids play,” Lonnon said.
Lonnon said the focus this summer has been on playing more games and practicing less. The Lady Rams will be fielding a team this winter that won't have as much experience compared to a season ago. Seasoned veterans Haley Lockhart, Aaliyah Palmer, Kelby Kujawa and Natalie Williamson were all lost to graduation.
“We're going to have a new lineup next year,” Lonnon said. “We graduated some seniors that were a big part of our program last year. So I felt like playing more games this summer to just explore a little bit more about what lineups work.”
The Lady Rams will build around a core of players that includes returning starters Claire Ryan, Courtney Scarbrough and Hannah Owens.
Lonnon said the summer period is just as important for coaches as it is for players. The Lady Rams coach added the time gives him a chance to see the different skill sets his players possess and where they fit best.
“We're searching for two or three replacements there for next year that left us,” Lonnon said. “Basically the kids who are going to be replacing the graduating seniors are going to be kids who probably have not played a lot of varsity basketball.”
The summer also allows players a chance to build chemistry. Athletes spend hours traveling to league and tournament games in addition to the time they spend between games. The extra hours together gives them time to build a bond that can strengthen during the challenging winter months of the regular season.
“They spend a lot of time at these summer things just in dead time with each other,” Lonnon said. “I always thought that it was pretty important to be a good team on the floor you also have to be good with each other off it.”
The Lady Rams wrap up their summer tournaments in Greenville July 10-11 with six games.