Argos girls basketball preview:
New coach Jennings welcomes back VanDerWeele, Edmonds, stresses defensive intensity
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Scott Jennings has been around basketball his whole life.
He helped out at the junior high boys level at Argos, working for coaches like Boyd Davis, Chuck Evans and Gordon Mosson.
He helped out coaches like Paul Walker and Adam Heckaman with the Triton girls program.
His daughters Mallorie, Hannah and Courtney played at Triton.
He comes from what he calls a “basketball family.” A 1982 Argos grad, he’s one of five Jennings brothers that populated the Argos roster from 1969-86 for coaches Eugene Snyder and Phil Weybright.
His father Jon was the leading scorer at Tippecanoe High School for three straight years before graduating in 1951.
And he’s the uncle of 2014 Miss Basketball Whitney Jennings of Logansport and the brother of Rochester girls coach Brian Jennings.
And now that he is the girls basketball coach at Argos, he has a team of his own.
He said that he considered applying for the job two years ago when Gary Teel stepped down but said the timing wasn’t quite right.
“I just felt like I’m at that age,” Jennings said. “I’ve got some life experience to give back. I grew up in a basketball family. I’ve been an assistant coach with several head coaches and always wanted my own team to see what we could do and just teach some lessons and teach some fundamentals – kinda old school basketball. That’s what I do. And just have some fun. I think this is a good group of girls.”
Jennings lists seven players on the varsity roster, and all seven saw playing time in a 37-21 season-opening loss to Caston Thursday.
Senior guard-forward Madi VanDerWeele and junior forward Elizabeth Edmonds are the most experienced players on the roster. Sydney Shepherd, a senior who is back on the team after deciding not to play last year, and sophomores Emma Dunlap and Bella Stults also started against Caston.
Juniors Sophie Bollenbacher and Carleigh Miller round out the varsity roster.
All seven players are also members of the Argos girls soccer team that was playing in the Class 1A semistate less than two weeks ago.
The transition from soccer to basketball for the players might not be easy given how busy the start of basketball season could be. The Caston game was one of eight that Argos will play before Thanksgiving.
“We actually looked tired (Thursday) night, and I’ve been pushing them hard,” Jennings said. “I wanted to get them in really good shape, and soccer shape compared to basketball shape, it’s different. It’s a quicker pace up and down with basketball. And I think they’re in decent shape, but I’ve been pushing them hard the last couple weeks. … We’ve had eight practices together, and trying to put offenses and defenses (in) and trying to get them in really good shape, and I think they’re tired.
“I need to maybe back off just a little bit and focus on more game-time situations and game experience. We’ve been doing a lot of drills and just up and down. I think they need that working-together experience and some game situations.”
Jennings describes VanDerWeele as “versatile.”
“We’re going to use her all over the place, wherever we need her that night in a game,” Jennings said. “She plays good defense. She can rebound. She’s got a decent build on her, where she can go in and bang around down low a little bit. She’s one that we can put anywhere.”
Edmonds has already established herself as a shot blocker but has expanded her ballhandling and shooting skills as well.
“She can shoot the ball out there too,” Jennings said. “You give her a 15-to-18 foot shot, and she can knock it down. But I really need her in the post as much as possible because I need her rebounding down there. She’s got good post moves, and we’re working on those every night. I need her in the post because I’ve got some shooters out there.”
Miller, whom Jennings praised for being a good shooter, and Sophie Bollenbacher, who saw a lot of action last year, came off the bench against Caston.
Dunlap and Stults could inject some athleticism into the lineup.
“They’re athletic,” Jennings said. “They just have a lot to learn yet. They’re coming from JV last year, and it’s a much faster pace, but both of them are very athletic, and you can tell that from what they did on the soccer field this year. You give them another few games under their belt, and I think you’re going to see a big improvement in both of them.”
Argos squeezed opponents defensively in 2016 when they made their run to the Class 1A state finals, allowing only 33 points per game. They lowered that number to 30 points per game in 2017 and won a sectional.
They allowed only 36 points last year and went 13-10, which was a four-win improvement from the previous year.
“Tenacious,” Jennings said when asked what he would like his team’s defensive identity to be. “We’re probably going to do a lot of man to man. It depends on the night. We get into some games where they’ve got a real good shooter. … we may do some box-in-one, we may do some triangle-in-two stuff. I think we can press. We didn’t really show it that much (against Caston), but I think we’ve got some long arms and some length that I think we can do some pressing.”
Former Triton players Mallorie Sellers (nee Jennings), Allison Stuart (nee Thacker) and Amanda Davis (nee Miller) will be Jennings’ assistant coaches. Sellers is Scott Jennings’ daughter.
Karlee VanDerWeele is back as the JV coach.
Argos plays at Bethany Christian Saturday in their first ever Hoosier Plains Conference game.