By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
New Stillwater High School girls basketball coach Clay Stephens came to Stillwater from Frontier looking for a challenge. It’s safe to say, after his first summer in Stillwater, he’s found it.
Getting his first look at the team through its summer league and various camps, Stephens now has an idea what’s in store for him — and it isn’t necessarily pretty.
“It’s been a little inconsistent,” Stephens said. “At times it goes pretty good and at times it doesn’t go so well. We’ve got some things we need to work on. I need to figure out what they are good at and they need to figure out what I want them to do. We just need to spend some time together practicing and get some things ironed out.”
Spending time together as a team has been easier said than done this summer for Stephens and the Lady Pioneers. From injuries to players going on vacation to his remaining obligations at Frontier, Stephens said it has been a challenging summer. A summer in which, at times, he was just hoping to have enough players to sub, let alone find a good combination.
“It’s about 50/50 on how I feel about the team right now,” Stephens said. “There were times when we had some injuries this summer. Our post girl Lauren (Stettnisch) had an ankle problem and didn’t play together with us for a while, and some girls were gone on family vacations. I don’t know that we were all together at one time this summer.
“Transition time is always a little awkward. ... We did get to play some games. I don’t really know them very well as far as who the starters are, so maybe we had some odd combinations playing together. It’s always different coaching kids that you don’t really know what their strengths are, but for the most part I think it went OK. We got a little bit accomplished. We got a lot of work to do, but we did get some things figured out.”
One of those things that Stephens figured out? His team has some ability to shoot the ball, which came as a little bit of a surprise based on what he had heard about the team.
“The one thing I think we do pretty well is shoot the ball,” Stephens said. “And by that I’m talking about 3-point shots. We’re not very big, so being able to score from the outside is going to be very important for us and I think we’ve got some girls that can do that. We’re a little inconsistent at times with our shooting, but I think we can be pretty good shooters as a group.”
The ability to shoot may have come as a surprise to Stephens, but there were other areas in which he feels the Lady Pioneers will need a serious makeover — namely on the defensive end.
“Our defensive intensity was not very good at times and that may be because they just weren’t sure what I wanted them to do,” Stephens said. “At times, I didn’t think that we competed very well. That’s something that we’re going to have to work on. ... We’ll have a couple of months there from the beginning of school until basketball season to get these things worked out. It’s not something that we have to put everything in over a week and be ready to go. We’ve got a little time that we can get some things ironed out.”
Even so, Stephens said this summer has been invaluable, not only for the players but also for him. And as the team prepares to pick up practice again once school starts, having a couple of months already behind them will only help when it comes to transitioning into the season.
“Playing in the summer time is a huge advantage, whether you’re a new coach or someone who has coached for five or six years and know everybody,” Stephens said. “You always lose seniors and different players coming up, so you always have different personalities that have to fit together. It was good for me to see what our girls are like. My expectations are always pretty high. I don’t know what the girls expectations are, but playing together in the summer is always a big advantage and it helps just getting to know them and letting them know what I expect from them.”