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Players of all ages are preparing for the upcoming basketball season and one of their most difficult tasks is understanding what the coaches want to see from them at the tryouts. Tryouts aren't just about making the team, they can be about which level a player is assigned to, or where they are assigned within a team. Often players are left blindly guessing what it is it that the coaches are looking for. We had a conversation with Haslett women's varsity basketball coach Ross Baker for his perspective to help demystify the tryout process.
What is it that you are looking for in players during tryouts?
Coach Baker: "First you are looking at basketball specific things, passing, dribbling rebounding and shooting. You look for athleticism, quick feet and speed. Then you look if they are a hard worker. You want to know are they a good teammate? Are they coachable? I think those are the main points we are always looking for."
How does a bench player move up to a rotation player?
"It's a number of things. We always tell our girls that we aren't always looking for the most talented five, we are looking for the five that play the best together. Some years we may need a little extra scoring in the lineup so we might be looking for more offense out of our players. Some years we might need a really good defender or a really good ball handler and a girl that can set teammates up.
I think each season and each year that question gets answered a little differently but what we're looking for are five girls that play as a team and can play as one unit where they can share the basketball. The big thing for us is defensively you have to be able to talk and communicate. You've got to be a great communicator.
For a lot of the younger players in the area their season has been delayed or cancelled. With practice time at a minimum a player might think that they can't improve but that is not the case. What can a player do to improve on their own?
"The nice thing about basketball is that it's a sport that you can get better at whether you are doing it individually, doing it as a team or doing it two on two or three on three. Anytime you can improve your ball handling you should. There's plenty of home workouts you can do in the garage, the basement, or the driveway. Working on both your strong hand and your off hand equally is key.
Try getting in as many shots in a day as possible. Unfortunately in Michigan we don't have great year round weather but you can always work on your shooting form, and there's plenty of really good shooting drills online for that. You can just lay on your back in the basement or lay in the back in the living room or in your bedroom. You don't need a lot of space - just two or three feet that's clear to just work on your shooting form. If you can shoot they will always find a place for you to play and I think that goes along with dribbling as well. If you can handle the basketball and you're a really good passer there's always a place for you on a team."
You'll be able to keep up with the Haslett Women's basketball team here on LansingHerald.com all season long.
Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying 'I will try again tomorrow.' -M.A Radmacher
Those words are so fitting for Haslett Viking high school junior distance runner Graham Foster. A young man who through injury, timing, circumstances and fate has found himself unexpectedly leading his team to its future.
For Graham running was something that he always knew he could do and something he embraced since elementary school. “Ever since I was really young, I was really competitive. My first run was with Hershey’s (local youth running events) and I was always really fast. I was only average my first run but when I realized I could travel doing it and I really got competitive. So, I just ran as hard as I could and realized I was pretty good at this and I liked it too! I just believe that God gave me a gift for running and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Graham has progressed over the years to quietly being one of the better runners in the area, but has always been in a position where he was on the back part of excellent teams. A key contributor but always out of the spotlight. Happy to be a part of it all, but often overshadowed by older teammates and friends who collectively made up one of the best running teams, not just in the area but in the entire state. Then in a series of events he went from being the back runner on a good team to the lead runner on a team with young runners and unknown potential. The seniors graduated, fellow runners transferred and all of a sudden Graham was in an unfamiliar position. All eyes were looking at him.
“Graham had to step into a role that I wasn’t quite sure that he was ready for, and I don’t think Graham was ready for it – but in typical Graham fashion he embraced it, wanted to do as much as he could for the team and do whatever was necessary. Graham grew into it pretty quickly, but I also think it took a little bit away from his own running. I think it kind of hurt him in the long run because it’s a lot of pressure.” Haslett Cross Country Coach Mike Homan said of Graham taking the lead of the Haslett Vikings men’s distance teams. “It’s easy when you are just following but its different when you are the leader. I think this next track season is going to help him tremendously…it was a learning experience for Graham this past season. Not only how to be a front runner but being a captain on the boy’s team, a team which had so much success last year. It put a lot of pressure on Graham.”
Not only was Foster now in a different position as team captain, he also had the personal challenge of overcoming a freak injury that sidelined him earlier in the year. While at a church youth group meet up last December, Graham was having fun with friends and just jumping around when he landed and felt a twinge in his knee. Being precocious he didn’t think much of it and pressed on. During indoor track season he noticed that the swelling in his knee wouldn’t go away and he had it checked out. The news from the doctor hit hard, he had torn his ACL and would need surgery. He was out of running, and would require weeks of both patience and physical therapy.
“I never thought about quitting but I did have my low points when my ACL injury happened. I got pretty down on myself.” Graham said of the injury. “My parents helped me out a lot, and I prayed on it and eventually I came back. No, I never once considered quitting.”
The road back for Graham was not an easy one. With COVID-19 isolating everyone, his motivations had to come from within and from those immediately around him. One of those guiding lights on his road to recovery was coach Homan who has experience guiding many athletes down Graham’s same path.
“I think you have to put expectations out there, but they have to be expectations that they can achieve. We all want to have our own goals but you have to have goals that are attainable. I think for Graham it was setting goals that he could hit, so that in the beginning – to him it sounded relatively easy, but I knew it would be tough for him to hit them. With every goal that you hit, you set another goal and you get so much confidence from that.” Homan said of Graham’s recovery. “Luckily Graham is a kid that can pretty much out work anything and it was easy to keep hitting those goals. We kept seeing that happen throughout the year. I’ll tell you what, those breakthrough moments are so special for a kid like him, and it’s so well deserved for Graham. I hope we have a normal track season, and that we can roll right into fall of next year. He’s going to have so much more under his belt.”
With the spring running season in front of him, Foster has been hitting the track for as much practice as he can get in. Winter weather simply isn’t going to stop him. Not now after coming so far.
“Coach helped by encouraging me when I’d get down on myself after the injury. He knew what I was capable of and that helped me a lot. He always believed in me. I think I’m fully recovered now and its just a matter of getting back in shape at this point. I’m really looking forward to seeing my new team again and working with them some more. I’m looking forward to hitting my new time and breaking my PR’s and hopefully figuring out which college I want to go.”
With his challenges behind him we have no doubt that Graham will go as far and as fast, as he possibly can.
Photo Courtesy of J. Henry
Haslett resident Nathan Westerlund was recently honored as part of State Senator Curtis Hertel Jrs. "Frontline Hero" initiative to recognize local heroes in the 23rd Senate District. Nate is a Certified Nurse’s Assistant at Burcham Hills in East Lansing. He is a full time MSU student working toward his goal of becoming a Physician’s Assistant. After a full week of classes when his friends are hanging out or enjoying football Saturdays, Nate spends his weekends caring for those who can no longer care for themselves, working with this vulnerable population through COVID-19.
Nate was nominated by Anne Wilson, whose mother, Deanna, was the first Burcham Hills resident he ever worked with. Deanna recently passed away after a 20+ year battle with Alzheimer’s and a brief battle with COVID-19, but received excellent care from Nate when she was not herself from the disease. He treated Deanna like a person, helping her to pick her outfit for the day and put on her signature red lipstick, turning on her favorite HGTV shows, and getting her treats for her sweet tooth. With a smile and positive attitude, he cared for Deanna with humor and dignity while encouraging her family through a difficult time.
Nate loved spending time with Deanna, saying it was just a pleasure to have the opportunity to make an impact on her, Anne, and the rest of their family. He admits COVID-19 has been difficult for the Burcham Hills employees and residents, as necessary safety precautions have altered what is usually a lively, energetic environment. Nate tries his hardest to make sure his residents are having the best experience possible, knowing many of them are struggling with the same feelings about the pandemic as the rest of us are. He’s happy to know his work has a positive impact, and that an act of kindness for those in need can help illuminate a dark time. Nate is truly a Frontline Hero, and our community thanks him for his dedication.
Nate will receive a $100 gift card to El Azteco East. El Azteco first opened its doors in a basement on East Lansing’s M.A.C. Ave in 1976, after New Mexican native Arturo Santa Cruz, who was an MSU student at the time, realized his dream of opening an authentic Mexican restaurant to an eager public. He quickly expanded to a second location in Lansing and in 1992, moved the campus location to its current home on Ann St. Famous for its cheese dip, topopo salad, and rooftop patio, El Az, as it’s affectionately known, is a Lansing area staple.
The Michigan High School Football Coaches Association recently recognized outstanding area players for post season awards. Here are your Vikings honorees:
Congratulations to all!
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Jan. 13 – Three more Michigan High School Athletic Association non-contact Winter sports will be allowed to restart practice Saturday (Jan. 16) per the updated epidemic order announced today by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), while four Winter contact sports may begin indoor practices Saturday with non-contact activities.
Girls gymnastics, girls and boys bowling, and girls and boys swimming & diving, as “non-contact” sports, may also begin competition before the end of this month – swimming & diving Jan. 22 and gymnastics and bowling Jan. 25. Masks will be required of all participants except when they are actively participating in gymnastics and swimming & diving. Spectators will be capped at 100 persons in school gyms or 250 in stadiums and arenas, per MDHHS orders.
Basketball, competitive cheer, ice hockey and wrestling are considered “contact” sports and may begin non-contact practices Jan. 16, with their first competitions scheduled for Feb. 1. Because of the later start to competition schedules in those sports, the MHSAA will adjust its tournament dates for those four to conclude on later dates than what is currently scheduled – those dates will be announced later this week.
Girls and boys skiing, as an outdoor non-contact sport, was allowed to begin in December.
“We are glad to have three more sports join skiing in returning to full activity, but we understand the disappointment and frustration on the part of our athletes and coaches whose sports are not yet able to restart completely,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “We will continue to adjust schedules to provide all of our winter teams as substantial an experience this season as possible, as part of our greater plan this school year to play all three seasons to conclusion.
“We have shown with our remaining Fall sports this month that our schools can participate safely, and we’re confident teams will continue to take all the appropriate precautions as we jump back into indoor Winter activities.”
Additionally, spring sports teams and fall teams not participating in the MDHHS rapid testing pilot program may begin four-player workouts and resume conditioning Jan. 16, but only with non-contact activities. Fall teams finishing their seasons in girls volleyball, Lower Peninsula girls swimming & diving and football have been able to do so by taking part in the MDHHS rapid testing pilot program for COVID-19; volleyball and swimming & diving will conclude with Finals this weekend, while football will finish Jan. 22-23 with 11-Player Finals.
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