Going into the 2014-15 season, Hillsboro coach Nathan Hiebert didn’t have enough returning letter winners to field a starting five. This year the Trojans return seven, including leading scorer senior Alex Ratzlaff, and the difference in practices is “huge,” Hiebert said.
“It takes time to get up to speed and understand what the game is, and practice has been nice the first week because we have more experience,” he said. “We’ve been able to get a lot more in a lot sooner.”
Ratzlaff averaged 19 points and 6 rebounds per game as a junior, but while the Trojans will count on her continued productivity, Hiebert wants to distribute the load.
“We’re looking for a lot of other girls to step into scoring and rebounding roles,” he said. “We’ve got about 11 girls that are in the mix of things.”
None of the other six letter winners averaged more than 3 points per game last season. Hiebert said he expects experience and familiarity to open opportunities for several players.
“This year we have a lot more options,” he said. “Rebecca Kaufman ended up being our second- or third-leading scorer. Marah Franz has shot it well in practice.”
Savannah Unruh, Paige Proffitt, Sienna Kaufman, and newcomer Tas Sanchez are possible contributors that have looked good in practice, Hiebert said.
With a wealth of choices, Hiebert has yet to settle on a starting five.
“We’re still trying to find our identity and figure some things out,” he said. “I’m still not decided on who my starting five is or who my point guard is.”
Competition for point guard is a good thing, Hiebert said.
“We’ve had some years when we’ve had only one, and those years we’ve struggled,” he said. “There can be a little flexibility if you have three or four people who can handle the ball well.”
Hillsboro’s defense will benefit from having a slightly taller lineup than last year, Hiebert said. More length should translate into more tips, steals, and layups.
Although the team has experience, it’s still dominated by underclassmen. It will be important, Hiebert said, for players to learn and accept roles that capitalize on their strengths.
“If everyone’s trying to do things they’re not good at, then they’re battling each other rather than working together,” he said. “Our motto this year is ‘stay humble, hustle hard,’ and a part of humility is valuing the people around you.”
The Trojans will open the season at Nickerson on Friday.