The offseason preceding the 2003-04 basketball season is rarely what one would call a vacation for Northview head coach Bob Medworth. What with arranging what is annually one of the state's best marching bands in the Summer and Fall there is little time to breathe easy and relax. But this year providing a little extra jolt.
After enjoying what was the best girls basketball season in Northview school history last year, the Knights were set to return nearly everyone to this year's team. That was until center Julie Whitted and her family moved to the Hamilton Southeastern school district and threw a huge wrench into the Knight's plan of attack for this season.
However, Whitted has since returned to the fold, back with her old running mates at Northview and thus easing the nerves of not only Medworth, but Knight's fans around the area.
Northview returns 47 of their 54 points per game this year along with 25 of their 29 rebounds per contest.
The Knights return a seasoned lineup after losing just one starter in Ashley Pierce from last season. Rachel Deal currently is not with the team, but the Knights return Whitted in the middle along with guards Amy Thieman, Whitney Medworth, and Sarah Frazier. Heather Palmer, Laura McCrea and Erica Koehler also bolster a deep lineup for Medworth's Knights.
"I think our experience will definitely help us," commented Medworth. "Our players have been working hard on playing faster and at a higher tempo. I think we can go eight or nine deep at the varsity level without losing any aggression."
Indeed the Knights already appear to be in good shape and set to turn up the flame on opposing teams this year.
Whitted hopes to build on what was an excellent freshman year (13.3 ppg. and 9.8 rpg.) and will be a defensive linchpin for the Knights who want to play more full court defense against teams.
"We're going to play full court defense and try not to let teams set up comfortably," said Medworth before a early week practice. "On offense we're going to press the ball up the court and I think we can wear some teams out this year."
With another year of experience for the younger players on the squad and the addition of the quick Casey Challandes to the varsity roster, Northview should be tough on the defensive side of the ball as the season wears on. But that isn't to discount their offensive abilities as well.
The Knights have their top four scorers back in Whitted, and seniors Medworth (12 ppg.), Koehler (8.2 ppg.) and Thieman (7.5 ppg.). Both Koehler and Thieman certainly have the ability to raise their averages this year along with Palmer and Challandes in the quicker paced offense. Laura McCrea has also looked steady in practice and more aggressive than last season. "Erica (Koehler) has really improved her stamina this season as well as her shooting," commented Medworth. "Whitney (Medworth) has got more experience and had a good AAU season. She's making an effort to improve even more," said Medworth. "Sara Frazier has worked really hard on her shot and her ball handling and Casey (Challandes) is awfully good defensively."
Thieman and Medworth are the long range threats with 19 and 37 3-pointers made last season. The two should help keep defenses honest in overplaying the 6'5 Whitted in the center.
While the Knights rose to new levels last season, winning 15 games, the pressure is there to improve even more in the 2003-04 year.
"I hope we can get everyone to buy into the team concept," noted Medworth. "We can't settle. We have to be aggressive and focused every time on the court. We could easily end up in the middle of the conference if we don't keep improving."
The task of keeping the squad motivated will fall to two new assistants with the Knights this year.
Kevin Dean, a former standout at Terre Haute North hoops standout joins Bethany Buell who played basketball for Bellarmine University in St. Louis. Gabe Jauregui also returns to the Knights in helping Medworth guide the team.
The Knights will square off with Mooresville on Tuesday night in a road contest at 7:30 p.m.