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Berkley girls rallying around first-year coach and producing solid season

By: Mike Moore | Woodward Talk | Published February 9, 2011

 Senior Jayne Walendzik was part of a Bears team that went just 8-13 last year. With a new coach and some new confidence, things have been much better in Berkley this season.

Senior Jayne Walendzik was part of a Bears team that went just 8-13 last year. With a new coach and some new confidence, things have been much better in Berkley this season.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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BERKLEY — When he got his first real look at just what he’d be working with, Jordan Gruppen found himself somewhat pleased, as the first-year Berkley High girls basketball coach felt he’d inherited a solid crop of talent.

He knew he had some girls with some basketball savvy, and he felt with the right tutelage, he could piece things together and produce a successful season.

“I guess I never really estimated a record, though,” Gruppen said before a Feb. 1 practice at the school. “I just felt like we had a talented group of young ladies.”

He was right.

After a 8-13 record last year, the Bears had nearly equaled that win total already in 2011, sitting with a 7-5 mark at press time, including a 6-2 record in the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division.

“They’ve really picked it up ever since the year started,” Gruppen said. “The seniors have done a great job leading the way, while the underclassmen have stepped into their roles perfectly. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but we’re looking strong right now.”

“Staying consistent is the main thing we’ve focused on and we’ve tried to do,” senior forward Hanna Carter said.

Patience was also required, especially early in the season.

The Bears’ 7-5 record is even more impressive considering the team dropped its first four games of the season before winning seven of its next eight.

Asked about the improvement in play, senior Shannon Farlow credited Gruppen.

“Since day one, it’s so obvious he knows exactly what he’s doing,” she added. “The plays and schemes we run, the drills we do, everything is so organized and consistent.”

“He teaches in a way that we really relate to,” Carter said. “It’s not just basketball, either. He teaches you about decision-making, that’s applicable on and off the court. … I think coach Jordan is a big reason as to why we’re playing so much better and we have the record we do.”

If not for a Farmington High team that’s been a on a roll ever since the year started — 9-3 overall and 8-0 in the Blue — Berkley would have a legitimate shot at a league title.

As it stands, the girls are two games back and fell to the Falcons earlier this season 47-45 on a last-second shot.

“We’re still focused on the league and the games we have remaining, but our concentration remains on that consistency we’ve preached all season, that ability to get better from one night to the next,” Gruppen said. “There’s so much potential here, and the confidence just continues to grow.”

Asked if he’s been surprised, Gruppen said, “No.”

“It’s night and day from the first practice, but I always saw it in these girls,” he continued. “There were some things we needed to get done, and they have grasped those and run with them. Like I said, we can still get better and there’s plenty to still do, but we’re moving in the right direction.”

With the district tournament set to tip off Feb. 28, Gruppen and his girls know the streak they’ve been on lately is materializing at the perfect time. Draws have yet to be announced, but that confidence Gruppen spoke of could do wonders in a Class A Southfield High district, which should be anyone’s to win.

“If we’re playing our game, I like to think what we could do,” Carter said. “We’re going to keep working until that time gets here, but I like what I’ve seen so far.”
 

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