Ethan Stuart
Ethan Stuart
In his first season at the helm of Shawe boys basketball, Dan Hambrick isn’t ready to talk about wins or losses but he does know that after the summer work his team has put in, the Hilltoppers might be able to fly under the radar and pull a few surprises.

With the program’s summer schedule stable for the first time in recent years, Shawe saw its player numbers increase and provide a positive glimpse into the potential the Hilltoppers have to get back on track during the 2019-2020 campaign.

“We had around 17 kids this summer so the first positive is it looks like we will be able to field a full junior varsity team and varsity team,” Hambrick said. “We ran open gyms two nights a week and have been conditioning at Fit For The King and I’m just really pleased by how hard our guys worked over the summer. Their attitude over the summer really impressed me.”

The team still had to adjust to a new program, but Hambrick found himself making the biggest adjustments. A former Shawe girls coach making his return to the head coaching ranks since the mid-1990s, the summer basketball grind was much different than what Hambrick was accustomed to more than 20 years ago.

“I had to get my feet wet again,” Hambrick noted. “When I was coaching the girls’ program I was used to not being able to have hardly any kind of time with the girls at all in the summer. Now you just go right into it. It helped that I knew a lot of the kids but there wasn’t much time for me to really put in the system that I plan to put in once the season starts.”

Hambrick also dealt with some health issues throughout the summer but along with his coaching staff pieced together an impressive summer record of 6-0. The Hilltoppers played all six games at a team camp at Marian University and spent the rest of the summer in their home gym focusing on conditioning and fundamentals.

“I have to give a ton of credit to my assistant coaches for what they did on and off the court this summer,” Hambrick said. “A lot of their basketball experience and play-calling really guided our guys up at Marian and it was successful. Our guys just played really well and hustled and I was impressed with the attitude our guys brought to the floor every night we were in the gym. That’s what we want and look for in our kids.”

Leading the way the last two months was a returning core of Shawe players who went 4-19 last year including leading scorers Ethan Stuart and Henry Grote. Grayson May, Jack Grote and Chandler Cole, all players who started or saw significant action a year ago, return and their games improved throughout the summer.

Shawe will add to that a promising freshmen class that will bolster not only the junior varsity lineup, but also bring on a couple of guys who are expected to compete for varsity minutes.

“Our returning varsity guys were a godsend,” Hambrick added. “They all had a nice summer and took control from a leadership standpoint. We really saw a fifth gear in them and there is a lot of potential there. We have a nice group of four to five freshmen who I think will really give the returning guys a run for their money if they are not up to the challenge. It’s a nice little group that is only going to help us down the road.”

The focus now in August is getting the Hilltoppers back in the classroom but Hambrick and his team are ready to pick up where they left off in the summer once October preseason practice rolls around in two short months.

“There are not a lot of people looking at us but I think that’s what we want,” Hambrick said of the upcoming season. “The coaches are on the same page, the team is on the same page and we are going to continue to play with effort and dedicate ourselves to playing hard and playing relaxed.”

Meanwhile, player numbers also continue to increase for Shawe girls basketball who was finally able to re-establish a consistent summer program under second-year head coach Terry King. But with leading scorer Kate Grote graduated, the Hilltoppers spent much of the last two months fine-tuning their returning roster and building up their incoming freshmen in an effort to replace the high-scoring Grote with a more well-rounded team.

Early indicators are showing some success but Shawe still has a long way to go. The Hilltoppers remain optimistic about their game.

“I got a late start last year because I was hired so late so this was our first intro into a summer program,” King said. “This year I am a lot more comfortable around the kids. We had anywhere from 10 to 15 girls a night and had open gyms Monday through Thursday. Our summer went really well and I’m pleased with what I saw from the girls.”

Shawe also traveled north to Huntington University for the McCracken Camp, which prides itself on bringing in teams seeking a more traditional camp setting rather than a week filled with games against other schools. The trip was made to coincide with the team’s offseason efforts back in Madison.

“The McCracken Camp has a reputation for teaching the fundamentals of the game and I would recommend it to just about any team,” King said. “Because of going there we saw a lot of improvements from each of our girls who went. We spent all summer concerned with getting better and playing with maximum effort. We did that.”

In addition to improving fundamentally, Shawe also worked to shore up a roster that lacked depth during a 5-18 campaign last year. The Hilltoppers return one lone senior in Grace McAllister along with starters forward Lena Leatherman and guards Abigail Hill and Phoebe Grote.

That group is expected to mesh with incoming freshmen who are looking to make some noise at the varsity level.

“A girl like Grace (McAllister) has seen a big difference in her game,” King added. “She has better footwork and can use her left hand a lot better. Abigail (Hill) has improved her shooting and Phoebe (Grote) has stepped up in an effort to be a better ball handler. Lena (Leatherman) is now about 6-foot-1 so that gives us some inside presence. Our freshmen are very aggressive and we may see a couple fight for a spot in the starting lineup.”

It is too early to tell whether Shawe will improve on its five wins from last year but King thinks Shawe will be a better team and all the rest of that can wait for a few more months.

Right now, the only goal is to keep the numbers high when practice starts this fall and focus on the keys that ultimately could decide if the win total increases in the 2019-2020 season.

“Obviously we are looking to have enough numbers for both a junior varsity and varsity team,” King noted. “If we can do that, that allows us to have some options on the floor. We have the task of replacing a leading scorer so we want to work on scoring the basketball but we are also going to be doing some different things defensively. I won’t say how many games we will win, but I know we will be a better team.”