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A lack of seniors isn’t stopping South Lake from aiming high

By: Mark Vest | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published December 22, 2011


The leadership and experience seniors can provide to a team is viewed as a precious commodity in the eyes of those who coach on the varsity level.

South Lake girls varsity basketball coach Shay Lewis will not be afforded any such luxuries, as the Cavaliers do not have a senior among them this season.

In fact, Lewis’ starting lineup consists of two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior.

The lack of seniors on the roster is the bad news, but the good news is that youth can breed confidence, and the girls that will be representing South Lake this season are thinking big.

“We’re trying to win a district championship,” said freshman NaKyra Jordan. “I think we have a good team to do that. I’m coming in with confidence. I think we can win it all. We expect a lot out of this team.”

Sophomore captain Lauren Giurlanda shares her teammate’s sentiments.

“I expect us to (be) good,” she said. “You got to aim high and see what happens.”

Lewis is aware of the goals her players have set among themselves. While she is also optimistic about what the future could hold for her Cavaliers, she prefers to take a short-term approach.

“It’s a day-by-day situation for us,” Lewis said. “I don’t like to look too far ahead. Some of them said they want to win districts. I think it’s a great long-term goal, but what are we going to do between now and the end of February to make that goal come true. For me, it’s about making sure that we build on that whole process of becoming a better team. Those things start to become habit. It’s a process, and it’s not going to happen over night.”

Given the lack of experience South Lake has to work with this season, Lewis expects plenty of bumps and bruises along the way. None of the players who will be wearing a Cavaliers uniform have ever started on a varsity team before, and she understands that there are plenty of lessons to be learned.

But a young team should not be mistaken for one that lacks talent, and Lewis hopes skill makes up for inexperience.

She is looking for players who are ready to show her what they have.

“One of the players I’m really looking forward to seeing grow is NaKyra Jordan,” Lewis said. “I’m looking for her to have a really good season. She’s got a lot of talent. She’s got a good jump shot, good speed and good athletic ability. She plays point and shooting guard. I expect her to surprise some people and have a pretty good freshman season.”

Players aren’t the only ones who are new to the party. Though she does have previous coaching experience, this season marks Lewis’ first at South Lake.

She is in the midst of trying to learn about the players while at the same time giving them an opportunity to get to know her. According to Lewis, it is a process that has its advantages.

“I think one of the things coming into the season and being new is trying to get the girls to buy into a new system — my system, my philosophy,” she said. “It’s a new year. I don’t know any of the girls, so it’s a clean slate, and it’s a great opportunity for all of them to start fresh and to start new. As long as they keep working hard, we have some girls we can build a successful program on within the next couple seasons.”

For Lewis, the upside of coaching a youthful team is that it has more of a willingness to adapt than a veteran-laden squad might. And while the changes that she is implementing are still a work in progress, the response she is receiving from her players leads her to believe that there could be a bright future ahead.

“I’m excited to work with girls that want to play and are excited about the game of basketball,” she said. “That’s half the battle right there. There’s no doubt in my mind that the potential for these young kids is unlimited. I think as long as you believe in what you’re teaching, the players will start believing in it, as well. We have a lot of work to do, and we have a long way to go. But I think we can definitely have a winning season and a positive record.”