New coach steps in to lead rising Woodland Hills girls basketball program
Returning to high school coaching after an almost 10-year hiatus, Christine French didn't know what to expect when she took over the Woodland Hills girls basketball team this offseason.
But knowing former coach Korie Morton-Rozier through her coaching experience at McKeesport put French at ease. She realized she was taking over a team that, despite its recent record, had been well- coached.
“I actually didn't know much about them,” French said. “I knew that they were young last year. They struggled and only won one game last year, but they worked extremely hard.
“Knowing that Korie was at Woodland Hills, I knew that even though they only won one game last year that they were well coached and it wouldn't be starting from scratch.”
After spending 10 years coaching in the AAU circuit, French will lead a program that finished 1-20 and 0-12 in WPIAL Section 2-AAAA last season, but one that has the pieces in place to turn it around in 2015.
“Last season was a tough season, but I also feel like it was a growing season for us,” senior Kena Wilson said.
The Wolverines will be paced by their strong junior class, led by guards Jayla Ellis, Oakland Catholic transfer Gabrielle Palamone and forward Shamelle Price-Wheeler.
They will be joined by sophomore guard/forward Addie Mascioce and freshman Isi Palamone. French has been impressed with the younger Palamone.
“She's fundamentally sound already and has a great understanding of the game, so she's going to be able to help us out early,” French said.
But as their lone senior, it's Wilson that will lead the Wolverines this season and the player that French is looking to in helping to foster the team motto of “having a winning mentality on and off the court.”
“We're really looking to her to be a leader. … I told her that her responsibility was going to be to help me set the foundation for the program the way we want the program to go,” French said.
With a strong core of talent, Woodland Hills is optimistic entering this season, a campaign in which the team hopes to rely on the contributions of several players.
“I'm actually looking for balance,” French said.
“I want everybody to contribute, because when you're a balanced team, you're more difficult to defend and you're more difficult to come up with a game plan against.”
Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.