Chances are, the players who suit up for Grosse Pointe North’s girls basketball team have heard coach Gary Bennett utter the words “Work hard, play together as a team, and be fun to watch.”
Win or lose, if North’s players do that, they’re probably going to make their coach pretty happy. Bennett, who is in his 30th year as North’s coach, is more concerned with his team’s effort than he is with the scoreboard.
A good example of that came in the Norsemen’s opening game of the season Nov. 27. Although at the end of the game the scoreboard read Sterling Heights 37, Grosse Pointe North 36, Bennett was pleased with what he saw on the court.
“When we played Sterling Heights, we got down by nine at halftime,” he said. “We had great defensive intensity in the second half. Kids really played hard. I really couldn’t have been happier with their intensity level and sense of urgency to get things done on the defensive end. I told them I was proud to be their coach, because they worked hard together. I think that will be a trait of this team. I think they’ll work hard together, because I think they care about one another.”
Last season, North finished with an overall record of 9-12 (7-5 Macomb Area Conference Red Division). Bennett believes the experiences of last year may have helped the Norsemen in their maturation process, which helps to make him optimistic that his team will “have an enjoyable year.”
And although North has seven seniors who can help make that happen, they aren’t the only players Bennett will be relying on. In fact, the grade a player happens to be in is of little concern to Bennett in regards to how it translates on the basketball court.
“To me, they all just seem the same age,” he said. “I kind of look at my team (and) see kids out there playing together as a team. The youngest person on the team has been welcomed with open arms by everybody else. They’re out there working hard for each other. I kind of don’t look at my team and grade levels.”
The Norsemen will once again be going head-to-head with teams from the MAC Red, which Grosse Pointe South coach Kevin Richards described as “probably the toughest league in the state.” Bennett is also well aware of the type of competition his team will see in league play.
“I think that division this year may be the best it’s been in a long time, or the best it’s ever been,” he said. “I think we’ve got some really good teams. I think Grosse Pointe South is as good as any team in the state. I think Romeo and (Macomb) Dakota (are) really top-notch. I think (Utica) Ford’s going to have a really good year. It’s a tough league this year — really tough.”
North is next scheduled to be in action at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 in a road game against Livonia Ladywood. The Norsemen are next scheduled to be home at 7 p.m. Dec.11 against Romulus.