New varsity girls basketball coach looks to create a culture of unity as squad prepares for upcoming season opener
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The varsity girls basketball program from Grayling High School has a new coach this year and a group of players that is young but does have varsity experience.
The new coach is Dan Brandt, a fifth grade teacher at Grayling Elementary School. Brandt coached the junior varsity girls basketball team at Grayling High School in 2017-2018, 2015-2016, 2014-2015, and 2013-2014, so he is familiar with many of his current players. Brandt said this year’s squad has five returning seniors, three returning juniors, one new senior, two new juniors, and two sophomores.
“We’ve still got quite a few experienced people,” Coach Brandt said.
Coach Brandt said one of the squad’s strengths this year should be depth.
“I think we have a lot of depth with what we have. I think we’re strong all across the board,” Coach Brandt said. “We’re deep at every position.”
Other strong points?
“Hard work. Our athleticism. Willingness to not quit,” Coach Brandt said.
The girls basketball team started its official practice sessions for the 2018-2019 season on Monday, November 12 – a week later than the boys. In years past, it was the girls who started practicing first. Reason for the change? Venue issues involving the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s state basketball finals. The change is planned for only this season.
“In March 2019, Michigan State University’s Breslin Center will not be available for the traditional MHSAA boys championship weekend because of the possibility of the MSU women’s basketball program hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Breslin Center is the only available arena in Michigan large enough to host the boys semifinals and finals; for that reason, the (Representative Council) voted to switch the schedule for that season only so the boys tournament can finish at Breslin during the weekend of March 14-16, 2019,” according to the MHSAA.
Coach Brandt said the first week of practices “went really well” for the Vikings.
“We’re seeing a lot of great progress,” Coach Brandt said.
During the offseason, players participated in a variety of activities – four-player work-outs, summer basketball leagues, scrimmages – to get ready for the upcoming campaign.
“Their hard work over the summer is really paying off,” Coach Brandt said. “We gained a lot of experience for a lot of the younger kids. We were able to pack our June with a lot of scrimmages and things like that.”
Goals for the year?
“We would love to get that first winning season. It’s been a while. Have a winning record here at home. Next goal would be shooting for that district title,” Coach Brandt said.
What does the team need to work on most?
“Just communication on the defensive end. They’ve already showed a lot of leaps and bounds on that,” Coach Brandt said.
Brandt is in his first year as a varsity coach. He said he’s enjoying it so far.
“It’s been a dream of mine for a long time,” Coach Brandt said. “The kids have been amazing, bought into what I do. Made my job super easy and a lot of fun.”
Coach Brandt said he’s trying to build a culture of unity for the program, creating a basketball “family.”
“On the floor, just to grow as a team, build that unity, being there for each other. Continue to build on that idea of family,” Coach Brandt said.
The varsity girls basketball squad will start its 2018-2019 seasons with two road games (at Houghton Lake on Tuesday, December 4, and at Alpena on Friday, December 7).
The Vikings will host the Roscommon Bucks on Tuesday, December 11. Grayling will host East Jordan – a Lake Michigan Conference opponent – on Tuesday, December 18.
Grayling is in Division 2 District 34 for the 2018-2019 MHSAA playoffs. The tournament will feature Boyne City, Cheboygan, Grayling, Kalkaska, Kingsley, and Sault Ste. Marie, according to the MHSAA. Sault Ste. Marie is listed as the tournament host school.