The York Lions are excited to start fresh.
With seven first-year women joining the program and the departure of last season’s leading scorer Shauney Fischer, the hope is that change can be a good thing.
“We’re trying to get out there and find kids who not only have basketball potential but are hard workers and good character kids,” head coach Erin McAleenan said in an interview with the Toronto Observer.
The York women are looking to put their 8-30 record over the past two seasons behind them, as their inability to score the ball has put too much pressure on a middle-of-the-pack defence. The Lions finished second-last in points per game and dead-last in assists, three-pointers made, and attempted.
One of the ways McAleenan is looking to address this problem is improving at the game’s most basic skill: putting the ball in the basket. Game-speed shooting drills were a big part of the Lions offseason routine, something that should be of even greater value to an inexperienced roster.
During game action, the Lions are looking to create more possessions.
“We’re looking to increase our pace by increasing our defensive pressure,” McAleenan said. “We have the luxury of having some really good athletes this year and more depth than we’ve had the last couple of years.”
The Lions forced 7.6 steals per game — well behind Queen’s University’s first-place total of 12.4 — and further compounded by turning the ball over 22.4 times a game. The logic fits. Pick up full-court, force the opposition into more mistakes, and take advantage in transition on the other end.
Furthermore, McAleenan wants her team to make better decisions in the half-court, something that should be aided by the improved depth and scoring options. Among them is new recruit and three-time OUA All-Star Lindsay Shotbolt.
Shotbolt spent four seasons with the Carleton Ravens where she gained invaluable championship experience. She’s a forward that can attack off the dribble as well as knock down the open three, and has always been a terrific rebounder.
With just four players returning from last season, she will be depended on for veteran leadership at the small forward position.
“Lindsay is that all-around great student-athlete that we all want to have,” McAleenan said. “A piece that we’ve definitely been missing in terms of a go-to player. Her experience and leadership, especially to help our young group along the way, will be great.”
Shotbolt has already helped build some winning momentum with a 4-2 preseason, dropping 22 points and 10 boards against the UBCO Heat in Kelowna, but couldn’t prevent a tough 53-49 loss to the University of Toronto on Thursday at the Naismith Classic.
Patience, as always, will be a virtue for this young team looking to establish an identity, and so, close losses like these will be part and parcel of the growth process.
In an effort to fast track the composure of her young squad, McAleenan turned to an old habit of hers after practice on Oct. 5.
— York Lions Women’s Basketball (@YUlionsWBB) October 6, 2017
Back at the University of Lethbridge — where she coached for three seasons prior to arriving at York for the 2015-16 season — she went to yoga once a week. “I think yoga is such a great form of recovery,” McAleenan said. “With a younger group, mindfulness plays a part, and we’re just trying to improve both.”
Just like the virtues of yoga, winning is a tough habit to develop. By bringing in players with the right attitude to aid the exuberance of youth, there is cause for optimism that this can be the start of a turnaround for the Lions.