Leyden’s Giana Grande taking advantage of big responsibilities

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A year ago, guard Giana Grande was on the Leyden freshman B team learning the game and gaining high school experience.

Fast-forward a year and the 5-foot-7 sophomore is now flourishing while starting on the varsity team.

Grande credits her rapid improvement to hard work and focusing on the fundamentals.

“I worked on my ball handling and worked on my confidence and kept working at that,” Grande said. “My mom would help me work on my ball handling during the season.”

The emphasis on the fundamentals has allowed Grande to earn some quality minutes as the Eagles’ starting shooting guard. The Eagles continue to look for a consistent starting five on a roster that consists of mostly underclassmen like Grande.

Eagles coach Drewann Pancrantz has been impressed with the development she’s seen from Grande.

“She has really improved and has made strides on offense. She has been one of our better shooters the entire season and has good range and plays tough on both sides of the ball,” Pancrantz said

At first, Grande admitted it was challenging playing at the varsity level. She wasn’t used to the speed or the intensity.

“It was hard at the beginning of the season, but now it’s a lot easier in the middle of the season,” she said.

Grande has developed as a good contrast to junior guard Alondra Chavarria and freshman guard Artasia Gusman. Chavarria charges inside more, while Gusman is accurate from beyond the arc.

Grande can do a little of both and can also serve as a facilitator for her teammates. In a 51-44 loss to Hinsdale South on Jan. 16, Grande notched five assists while her fellow guards scored in double figures.

That balance and trust will be key as the Eagles continue to develop and build for the future.

“For us, it’s all about playing together as a team and the older players have been really welcoming to us and helping us learn,” Gusman said.

The Eagles have found some success this year, winning the Addison Trail-Fenton Thanksgiving tournament, but were still looking for their first win in the WSC Gold.

“We need to keep working on keeping our heads up and being more aggressive and not getting down. That’s been hard for us, especially at the end of games,” Grande said. “Keep building that confidence in ourselves and each other.”

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