UNION CITY – The Lady Blackhawks are coming off a 9-14 record in 2014-15 and 5-7 record in the Cross County Conference.
They have a new coach this year. In fact, it is the fifth new coach in five years at Mississinawa Valley.
The new coach is John Hershey … but he isn’t a stranger around Mississinawa and will be a familiar face to many.
“I started coaching 20 years ago at Mississinawa in cross country, and I’ve been an assistant coach in basketball on an off for the last eight years for Rodney Saintignon then a brief stint at Ansonia with Dave Westfall and then last year with Roger Collins here,” Hershey said.
“I’ve also refereed for 22 years so I’m not stranger to the basketball world,” Hershey added.
Hershey is very optimistic about the team and was very passionate when talking about the Lady Hawks.
“This is the finest team I have ever seen in regards to unity,” Hershey said. “These girls get along. That’s a rare thing, and so far they are having fun.
“The girls are working hard. I’ve known most of these girls for three or four years, and I’ve never seen them work as hard as they are right now,” Hershey said.
“We are trying to build a program with consistency and continuity … that’s tough to do when they have had so many changes in the last five years.
“Everything is positive. We talk positive, we find positive things to build on, and that is the track I want to take.”
Mississinawa has one lone senior this year in Leslie Dirksen, five juniors in Kelsie Hunt, Kylie Willis, Madison Stachler, Mikayla Stump and Shelbey Copeland, one sophomore in Sidnie Hunt and two freshmen in Olivia Murphy and Bailey Johnson.
All five of Mississinawa returning lettermen will be the projected starters, and those returning lettermen are Leslie Dirksen, Kelsie Hunt, Kylis Willis, Madison Stachler and Mikayla Stump.
“We are experienced with our returning lettermen … but from there we lack experience and would be bringing in freshman and sophomores,” Hershey said.
“Our senior Leslie Dirksen has stepped forward as a leader for this team, and she has already demonstrated that early on. Anything I need to say … she is already saying it to them,” Hershey said.
Hershey’s offensive philosophy is basically very simple …
“I don’t run sets for individual players … we will run a basic motion offense, and I believe every girl on the floor should be a threat and should be looking for opportunities to score,” he said.
Defensively he likes to get after and be aggressive, and in Mississinawa’s scrimmage at Greenville he saw moments where the Hawks were doing that … but they have to find a way to keep that intensity for a full game.
Overall Hershey is pleased with what he has seen so far.
“They’ve surprised me so far this year with what I seen last year and what I’m seeing now in our scrimmages, I’ve had my head turned a time or two,” Hershey said.
Coach Hershey doesn’t have a long list of goals for the team … rather he has a philosophy to help build the program, and it’s bigger than just one season of basketball.
“My No. 1 goal this year is to make basketball fun again at Mississinawa and to instill this at all levels in our program all the way through junior high and the youth program,” Hershey said.
“We’ve got some coaches in place for our youth program and the focus is on basic fundamentals of basketball, and if they are having fun then they will want to put the time in … you can’t get better if you aren’t putting in the time,” Hershey said.
It’s important to add that Hershey realizes that stability is needed to get the program going in the right direction, and that requires stability and continuity. He said he planned to be around for quite awhile.
“So overall this year it’s not about wins and losses … and right now our girls are having fun and they are super excited about the season ,and that’s what I want to see throughout the program,” Hershey concluded.
The Lady Blackhawks will kick off their season on Saturday at Northeastern, Indiana.