Inexperience a concern for Elgin Academy

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New Elgin Academy girls basketball coach Bill Rodriguez has a versatile, hard-working group of players on his 2012-13 roster.

What they lack, however, is any type of varsity experience back from last year’s 4-13 team. In fact, the Hilltoppers resemble a frosh-soph unit, considering nine of the 13 players on the roster are freshmen and two are sophomores.

“With our corps of nine freshmen, we are a very young team, but I have let them know that even experienced varsity players do not have a safe starting spot,” Rodriguez said. “Every one of them is hungry and producing in practice, which pays off in games.

“It’s like I told them, hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t want to work.”

It does help that Rodriguez is a long-time area middle school coach who has been in the Elgin Academy program the past five years, so he coached many of the players at lower levels, including their only senior, Sam Siddiqui.

The 5-foot-8 post player will key the interior offense and defense in her fourth year of varsity ball.

“I’m looking for her to be a leader,” Rodriguez said. “She’ll be inside getting a lot of rebounds. She played that way when I coached her in seventh grade. She has a good attitude and a lot of skills.”

Susanna Cain, a wing who can also handle the ball, is the only junior on the roster.

“She’s a feisty player with skills and talents that let her go from 2 to 3 to even point guard,” Rodriguez said.

Sophomore Alysson Wittmeyer is a 6-foot center who Rodriguez calls “hightower.”

“She’s got a year of varsity experience and we’re trying to boost her confidence because she has talent,” he said.

Kaitlyn Pearson, called “special K” by Rodriguez, is an outside scorer and ball handler at guard.

The rest of the roster is the freshmen corps. Susanna Cain’s sister, Rachel, is an outside scorer who can also play point, while Elizabeth Clements is a post player. Liz Huerta is a guard who played in sixth grade for Rodriguez and will be at off-guard or small forward.

“She’s very aggressive and can handle the ball,” he said.

Rodriguez calls Trennedy Kleczewski “The natural,” because she’s a “smooth player with a lot of ability.” Corrine Lam is a post player with enough versatility to step out to small forward and score. Valerie Simeca is a point guard Rodriguez labels “a sparkplug who can shoot, too.”

Melissa Trudrung is a post player and Roma Hameed and Audrey Johnson are playing basketball for the first time in the program. Lauren Desch is a player new to the roster.

“We have girls who can move around to different areas and use their skills to help us in a lot of ways,” Rodriguez said.

The Hilltoppers open the season at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in their own tournament against Nazareth.

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