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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lynn Mueller- Knox Senior Adjusting to System

Four years ago Bill Allison told me the women’s basketball team was going to be really good. His reasoning was that Knox had successfully recruited a player from Downers Grove South.  And as Bill explained to me, all the great athletes in Knox history came from Downers Grove. (He happens to be from Downers Grove, not sure if at his age if he can remember if it was North or South)

Lynn Mueller is a senior from Downers Grove South on the Knox women’s basketball team. She is a 5’6” guard. She is a great athlete, excelling in both basketball and track.

I wondered how seniors would react going to the System. It would be a pretty dramatic change to go through your last year. In my opinion, the System is great for Lynn- it allows her to do what she does best- scramble and play hard.

Alan Stein, the basketball training guru, talks about players being either energy givers or energy takers. A player is never neutral, they either thru their actions, behavior, verbals, and play energize their team or they are a drag on their team.

When you are not at practices and when you are not in the locker room it is risky to make judgments about  team chemistry and player roles. But from my observation of the Knox team,  Lynn is a player that all of us would want for a teammate. It is a given she will play hard. But she is never neutral when on the bench, she seems to be the first up when a teammate does something positive. She is positive and supportive.

So I think it is interesting to find out how a senior reacts to such a dramatic change.

How did Coach Cline break the news that she was thinking about going to the System?
When we first talked about the system, Coach had kind of mentioned it to a few people on the team in individual meetings. However, she kind of broke the news to the group at a team dinner/meeting at the end of the school year last year.

What was your initial reaction? I got the impression that many of you were lukewarm about things- accurate?
At first, I think the team was pretty in the middle with it. To begin, I think everyone thought we were just going to do the Grinnell system. Mind you, this came out right after we had heard talk about the three point line for girls being moved back to the guys line. I personally felt like it was going to be great because my style of basketball is very similar to that of the system in terms of the run and gun type of ideal as well as tough, trapping defense. The team overall seemed to be interested in the idea completely but I am sure there were doubts.

You lost some tough early games, did make you question things?
I don't think that it questioned things as much as it was just frustrating that we weren't getting the results that we wanted. I think we all had a crazy faith and belief in the system after our scrimmage where we won 104 to 60 something but then got completely discouraged when the score was reversed for our first game. So, it was a matter of figuring out what we had to do each game in order to win the game. Yet, until recently, we didn't really know what that felt like on a consistent basis.

Now your team seems so into things, do you think there was a point for you or for the team when you were won over by the style?
As I kind of mentioned, before winter break it was just disappointment after disappointment and I think everyone was frustrated. Yet, we came back after winter break and were more ready than ever to push and work hard to get the results that we have been waiting for. I think once we started playing as a team in order to reach the team goals, we all completely know its doing its job right now.

What is the most frustrating thing about running the System?
I think the most frustrating thing is just the fact that its so anti-traditional basketball in some areas. I mean, we are taught in our system to force them to shoot quickly when in traditional games, it may not have been the same. However, in order to create the tempo, we have to give up some of those easy baskets. Plus, I think another frustrating thing for us right now is when we are not making our threes, we have to find other ways to score and when that isn't going right, it seems like we are just running up and down having them shoot lay ups and us try to get a shot off quickly. However, I think we are working through that better now.

What has been the best part of running the System?
I think the best part is the feeling we get when everything goes right. I mean, who doesn't love to score 100 points in a game?? When we all play together and then get steals and great traps on defense and then go and score a three or a lay up, the gym goes crazy and so do we. It’s an unbelievable feeling when it all comes together. Typically, girls basketball is slow and can be boring, I'll be the first to say.. but playing this system is definitely the most fun I have ever had playing basketball.

What has been the most exciting moment for you so far?
I think the Beloit game just this past weekend was one of the most exciting moments. We were down by eleven at half time and then came back and played the game of our lives in the second half. We still made mistakes but I have never had more fun with my entire team like I did during that game and the game that we beat Carroll at home. It is just a blast.

I am sure you have been part of many winning lockerooms.  How was the lockeroom after you scored 114 points and won back to back conference games?
We were thrilled. We have not really ever done that where we won two conference games in a weekend. It was such a great feeling and really made us realize that we are capable of being competitors in this conference. We have always said that we are almost there or we are right there but now we can say that we are finally here. And we are only going up from here.

If Coach Cline told you that she was going back to traditional basketball- how would the players react?
I think some players might be okay with it considering it is what they have always known but I definitely think that most of our team would fight to keep the system alive and working. I think that since we have so many underclassmen, they have an opportunity to really be great no matter what type of basketball they play. It would definitely change the amount of playing time people would get so I doubt that too many people would be strongly for switching back to traditional.

Do you think this will help with recruiting?
Absolutely. I think giving incoming freshmen the opportunity to play right away is something that definitely helps with recruiting. What freshman wants to come to a school where they won't get to play very much that first year, especially in d3? I also think that this system is so different and fun and I think that most people would definitely like to give it a shot.

So far how does this season rank with your other sports experiences?
 At first, I have to say that I was not happy with the season. However, now, I am just playing basketball for the love of the game and for my teammates. I am definitely thankful that I have had the opportunity to play the system at least once in my basketball career. I wish that I would have had more preparation for it, though, so that my teammates and I could have gotten the results we wanted much earlier. But, I don't think that I would trade having the ability to play basketball for anything. After being injured last season four games in with my ACL and then spraining my MCL and tearing almost all the cartilage behind my knee cap in pre season this year, I am just very thankful and blessed to be able to play basketball again, even if its for only another month.

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