Franklin Regional basketball teams put in work over summer
The Franklin Regional girls basketball team took about a month off after its loss to Mt. Lebanon in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs last season. Then the work for the 2013-14 season began.
The work is only intensifying this summer. Players from the Panthers' girls and boys basketball teams have been busy over the past couple months, competing in summer leagues and participating in open gyms and workout regimens.
Coaches Brad Midgley and Rick Klimchock say the work already is paying off.
“There's a little bit of rust to knock off when you get back in the gym after a few months of just doing some open gyms or some workouts,” said Midgley, coach of the boys team. “But more than anything, you want your guys to be more of an extension of a coach. You do get a chance to see that from some of the guys that were younger guys coming up. That growth is important as a program.”
Both teams played well in summer leagues, with the boys making the playoffs in the Pittsburgh Basketball Club league and the girls winning six of their nine games in the McKeesport Girls Basketball Summer League.
“It absolutely helps,” Midgley said. “It's one of those things where most games you're not going to have all your guys, but the other team's not going to have their guys, as well. It just keeps guys playing and picking up game experience and working on some different things.”
As a whole, coaches focus less on strategy over the summer than they do on skill improvement.
Klimchock said because the team typically plays the same style from season to season — a pressure defense, combined with a high amount of 3-point shooting on offense — he focused more on individual skills with his players. In open gyms, coaches worked on separate drills for post players and guards with the goal of individual improvement. Post players especially benefited from that extra attention, Klimchock said.
Additionally, the strength and conditioning program helped the girls team down low this summer.
“One thing I think we do better this summer than we've done in the past is our post game is better and our rebounding is better,” Klimchock said. “Those have been really big flaws for us. We've been trying to survive on the 3 ball, on our press, and we saw that.”
Midgley said he focused on helping younger players expand their offensive skill sets, working on moving without the ball, setting screens and finding open teammates as well as improving their own individual skills.
“We've become more than one-dimensional individually,” Midgley said. “The guys that can maybe only go right are more comfortable going left now. The guys that were just drivers are shooting the ball for me now. Guys that were shooters are creating their own shot off the dribble. Those are the things that I talked to the guys individually about after the season, and then I've continued to see the growth through the spring and the summer.”
Because of summer jobs, vacations and other sports, participation can become an issue in the summer. Klimchock said he didn't think the Panthers had their full complement of players for any of their nine games in the McKeesport league, and the boys team dropped out of the Pittsburgh Basketball Club playoffs in the second round because it didn't have enough players.
However, both coaches said they received good participation overall from their players.
“I just try to instill in them that the more time they put in, the better they're going to get,” Klimchock said. “What I'm really happy about is that our strength program, which is something we really felt we had to address, we're getting anywhere from 10 to 14 girls (out of about 20). We're doing pretty good pickup on that.”
Both teams will wind down their summer work in the coming weeks. Midgley said the boys team would get the month of August off before returning to work when school resumes, and Klimchock said the girls would attend two team camps before ending their strength and conditioning work in mid-August.
For both coaches, the work this summer has been worth it. Midgley said the boys team is still young but is growing throughout the summer.
“I've got a core group of guys who are pretty dedicated,” he said. “They put their time in, and they know if they do that, they'll get good results.”
The girls team graduated three players who will play in college next season — Erin DiFalco (Thiel), Dana Eastman (Chatham) and Maggie Kimmich (St. Vincent). He said he was excited about that, plus the potential for the three rising seniors on the 2013-14 team to also play in college.
What he's seen over the summer excites him for next season.
“I'm going to be really confused next year, because I think we're going to have about 10 to 12 kids who can play,” Klimchock said. “We do play a lot of numbers generally, but I think our depth can be better (next year). It's always been pretty good, but it's going to be better — and the depth we have is going to be quality depth, I think.”