The Naperville North girls basketball team has 11 returning players, but the Huskies will have to adjust to a new leader and a new system.
Jason Dycus takes over as coach from Jacquie Discipio, who stepped down to become assistant principal at Washington Junior High. While this is Dycus’ first year with the girls team, he is a familiar face at the school after spending the past 16 years coaching in the boys program.
He is upbeat about the gig.
“I’m happy with the way things are going,” Dycus said. “I’m really proud of the girls and the fact they’re always trying to buy into a new system. They are practicing hard.
“I’m building off a good foundation that Jacquie Discipio built. I think we’ve got a good program.”
The Huskies, who were 14-14 a year ago, will build around 5-11 junior power forward Kayla Sharples, who is entering her third season as a starter. A tremendous athlete who has already committed to play soccer at Northwestern, Sharples will be expected to carry a heavy load.
“Kayla is a great athlete and a great young lady,” Dycus said. “She’s going to be one of our leaders. I think Kayla not only has to be a defensive presence, but she’s going to have to score and be a force at both ends of the court.”
Sharples is expected to replace some of the offensive production lost when Zoe Swift, now playing soccer at Kentucky, graduated. Swift’s speed will be missed, but Dycus wants the Huskies to cut down on the turnovers that plagued them and led to frustrating inconsistency.
“I think our ballhandling is going to have to be better,” Dycus said. “We need to put pressure on our opponents and let our defense get our offense closer to the basket with some turnovers and layups instead of sitting back in a halfcourt game.”
With only two seniors — 5-11 center Morganne Freeman and 5-7 guard Haley McClain — the Huskies will be young yet energetic.
“We’re going to play faster and switch our defenses up and make teams prepare,” Dycus said. “You’ll see us do 1-3-1 and a halfcourt zone trap. Another new thing is our motion will be a read-and-react offense. We’re teaching the girls to react to the game situation instead of just learning plays.”
Who will quarterback that offense remains to be seen. Laurel Pereira, a 5-10 sophomore, is a leading candidate to be the point guard, but McClain, 5-5 junior Olivia Stapleton and 5-10 sophomore Sophia Fumagalli could be in the mix. Sophomores Cece Pope and Katie Cores and juniors Chloe O’Dekirk and Mary Ryan are back to help out up front.
“I think we need to want to compete in every game,” Dycus said. “It’s too early to know what we have until we start getting into competition, but I want the whole program to be excited about the new system that we’re putting into place.”