FAIRMOUNT — Madison-Grant is looking to avoid a repeat of last year’s 3-20 campaign.
This year, the Argylls are set up in a better position to do that. Head coach Brandon Bradley wasn’t hired until June of last year and was only able to have one open gym in the summer. He managed to meet with some players before the season started, but there were three players on last year’s squad he didn’t meet until the first day of practice.
There wasn’t exactly ample time for Bradley and his team to get familiar with each other. The result was a lot of growing pains and a long season.
“There was just a lot of awkwardness and animosity about the first month, month-and-a-half of the season. There was quite an adjustment period,” Bradley said. “They always worked hard. There was never a question there, but you could see a difference once we got into December and especially January.
“I actually thought we competed harder, we practiced better in January. And to say that about a team that lost a lot of games at the end of the season, that’s quite a compliment to them.”
The Argylls’ offense was stymied for most of last season, averaging 24 points as a team. The bulk of the woes stemmed from committing 28 turnovers per game, an issue Bradley hopes to alleviate during the upcoming season with his players more comfortable and confident in the team’s offense.
“Now, we’re more used to (Bradley) and his way of doing things, just running practices and stuff,” said senior Blayklee Stitt. “We have more to build off of because we already know how to defend certain ways or run plays certain ways. We know what we’re doing now, so we just need to practice doing it together and as a team.”
Madison-Grant’s schedule does it no favors early on. The Argylls play their first three games on the road and don’t play a home game until they host Marion on Nov. 19. On the bright side, they’ll be battle-tested early before playing their next three games at home.
“The biggest struggle will probably be the bus ride,” senior McKenna Lugar said. “I’d say going into games, we’d have to talk more and be more energetic.”
“I think for the juniors and seniors it might not be as much of an issue because we’re already used to going and playing and maybe we’ve been to some of the places before, but I think getting everybody fired up in a place that they’re uncomfortable can be a little more trouble,” added Stitt.
Now that the Argylls have a year of experience under Bradley’s system, they hope to clean up the play while getting up and down the court at a faster pace, using their athleticism to their advantage. Bradley hopes the team can at least cut its turnover numbers down to around 20 per game or fewer in order to get more shots on offense.
“We’ve had a lot of improvement. I think the most improvement has been talking and learning the plays,” Lugar said.
One big difference between this year and last has been the attentiveness and belief the players have in the team’s system.
“This year, I see a lot more open eyes,” Bradley said. “I think they believe and they trust in what we’re doing fully, and there’s a complete buy in. I see it with the seniors and juniors, which is impressive because they’ve had other coaches.
“For the upperclassmen to be as open and warming as they have been is really good and encouraging.”
An occurrence that showed Bradley his team believed started with Lugar. Last year, she decided not to play. Then, she heard her teammates had enjoyed their experiences last season and bought into the system, so she asked if she could return to the team. Now she’s back on the 12-player roster and ready to make the most of her senior year.
Bradley’s coaching staff has offered a lot of help as well. This season, former Ball State standout Moriah Monaco joins the Argylls coaching staff as an assistant. Monaco was a 16 points per game scorer during her junior and senior seasons on some successful Ball State teams. Monaco finished her career as Ball State’s second-leading 3-point shooter in program history and its sixth-leading scorer, so M-G will get to learn from someone who is just two years removed from competing at the Division I level.
“I think it’s good to at least have a girl on the (staff) here because she can relate to us better than a guy can, so I think that’s helpful having that there,” Stitt said. “Since she’s definitely the freshest from the game, she can give us a different perspective of it since it has changed a lot.”
The Argylls held a home scrimmage against Maconaquah on Wednesday, which they won, 56-28. M-G will travel to Delta at 12:30 p.m. Saturday to get its regular season started.