With only six of the 18 girls back from a program which produced only two varsity victories a year ago, new coach Brandon Bradley doesn't have any miracle elixirs or a plan to speed-drill his troops into a highly competitive squad.
"Practice is going good, but have no basis for comparison," admits Bradley who has extensive experience in the world of boys basketball.
"I've never coached girls basketball, never saw this team in action or the (previous) coach working with them, and I've never seen their opponents ... but people tell me it's a good atmosphere," said Bradley.
Still, Bradley is not willing to batten down the hatches and accept the inevitable, to have his girls eke out a few wins against even lesser foes and just take it on the chin from the rest.
"I don't want these girls to settle for mediocrity. They're good kids, they work hard, and they'll learn to win," said Bradley.
"Instead of going to Garrett, Leo and Winchester thinking 'well, we'll probably lose by 30 or 40,' we're going to go with the idea of playing hard and trying to win. If we do lose by 30 or 40, so be it."
Bradley replaces Kip Jones, who moved on to be an assistant women's coach at IPFW. The 35-year old basketball junkie has coached boys travel teams for 15 years, including seven years with Spiece in Fort Wayne. He's coached three USSSA National champions in boys travel basketball. He spent two years as head jayvee coach for Tipton High School and for two seasons coached the Carmel Middle School boys, with the latter team going 16-2.
Bradley was for one year a varsity boys assistant for Caston High School and he coached the eighth grade boys at Maple Creek, going 19-0 his first season and finishing second to Norwell in the conference tourney last year.
The coach admits that he doesn't have a lot of offensive weapons and that the South Adams girls, as a year ago, just aren't good at putting the ball through the hoop, but there is something he can do until that day.
"The quickest thing we can do to toughen the players up is to move faster and be more aggressive. If we can do that we can mask some of our weaknesses," said Bradley.
"We can learn to be good on defense. Offense is always a problem this time of year, even at the college and pro levels. Things don't come around smoothly until a month into the season."
Of the 12 girls who exited SA basketball last year, three graduated, three moved away and six did not come out. Still, Bradley will have a varsity and jayvee team.
He has four players with varsity experience, led by senior guard Katrina Hawkins. Taylor Farlow, a 5-10 senior, came out for the first time last year and quickly picked things up. Lindsey Graber is a 5-3 senior guard back from a year ago, and junior Lindsey Chandler, a 5-0 guard, returns.
"Katrina will play a major role. Lindsey Chandler will start and Taylor Farlow will start at center. The rest ... we'll find out," said Bradley.
Kristin Muselman (sophomore) is a good athlete. Graber, Bailee Green and Alli Amstutz (frosh) are very athletic with a good feel for things," added the coach.
He also likes the potential of his two other varsity frosh: 5-11 Dzejna Ahmetovic, and 5-6 guard Alyssa Bluhm.
Also on the squad is junior Monica Jarrett.
To get to that goal of winning 8-to-10 games this year, South Adams "has to win against the teams we can win against, and not split. There are series with some teams and every game is close. We have to win those," said Bradley.
Bradley will run a motion offense and will eventually teach man-to-man defense, though it's zone starting out.
Success will be judged on how the Starfires compete. "If we take a 40-point loss from a year ago, and make it a 10 of 15-point loss, that's success. If we take a six-point loss and make it into a win, that's success," explained the coach.
The items Bradley is stressing are intangibles: toughness, determination, aggressiveness, competitive drive and confidence. "While most coaches would say a skill or ability related to basketball would be needed first, the areas I identified were most lacking early on., and several of the girls have really started to take to them," said the coach.