Total Pageviews

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sara Johnson & Abby Owens- Knox Players From Grinnell

It has been so much fun for me watching as the Knox women implement “the System.” It is exciting for me on several levels. I am a Knox alum so that is part of it. My first coaching job was when I was asked to coach the Knox women my senior year, while I played for the men’s team. So it is really fascinating for me to see how the program has progressed and changed from that 1973-4 season. And obviously now that they run the “System”, it is exciting to see how it goes.

An interesting twist is that two of the Knox women grew up watching Grinnell play, and now are playing the same style at Knox College- 3 hours away. Sara Johnson is a junior- guard, forward, center- when Coach Cline went to the System, I thought her athleticism and ability to play multiple positions would make her a natural for the “System.” Sara’s identity as a basketball player was her ability to play tough man to man defense- so I am not sure she was sure about the switch.

Abby Owens, is a senior guard from Grinnell. Abby provides the ability to shoot the threes. An interesting thing is that Coach Arseneault actually worked on her shot when she was in high school. She has hit many back breaking threes this season.

In exploring how “the System” implementation has gone at Knox, I thought where better to start than with two players who grew up watching the “System.” We are certainly glad both left Grinnell and came to Knox!

Massey- You grew up in Grinnell. Did you go to Grinnell men's games at all? As a "townie", how did you feel about the style? Did your high school coaches ever experiment with it?

Johnson- Growing up, the Men's college basketball team got a lot of attention from kids around town.  In middle school we would all crowd into the old Darby Gym (before their current one) and would have our own cheering section, we made "Future Pioneer" shirts as well.  The gyms were always packed with loud fans.  My Grandma also worked in the Athletic Department at Grinnell which influenced me going to the games as I got to meet a lot of generations of players that filtered through the System along with being family friends with the coach.  The environment for the games was always high energy!  At the time however I remember not fully understanding the System that they were running and other than going to their games coaches at the high school did not ever give that style a go.

Owens- I attended the Grinnell men's games on a regular basis. I really enjoyed watching them and the fast tempo of their style of play. I never had a coach that ever experimented with it. I actually worked with Coach A a couple of times on having a quicker release when I shot, but my high school coach didn't like what I was trying to do and tried to change it back.

Massey- How did Coach Cline break the news that she was thinking about going to the System?

Johnson- She told us at a team dinner after last season and that she was considering making the change.  It was really beneficial for me to be here this summer as well to make strides in understanding the system more and trying to learn how to adjust my play.

Owens- Coach Cline told the team that we were going to run the system at our end of the year banquet.

Massey- What was your initial reaction? I got the impression that many of you were lukewarm about things- accurate?

Johnson- Yes, that is accurate, I was unsure about the move at first despite the fact that I had always loved watching it.  I really do enjoy conventonal basketball and thought I was making significant strides as a player the last year.  I love being physical whether it be someone twice my side in the post or antagonizing guards while on defense.  Defense is my favorite part of the game.

Owens- I was actually pretty ecstatic. After growing up watching the system, I always wanted to play like that. I was happy about the fact that I could focus on my three-point shot, since that is one of my strong points.

Massey- You lost some tough early games, did make you question things?

Johnson- I think from getting to know more about the System before the year began and understanding that it is a transition that takes time, I tried not to question it.  However, I would be lying if I said there were not times I got caught up wondering and questioning what our talent could be doing in conventional basketball at times.  It has been a long time since that I have questioned that though, because even from the start I could always see small great things happening even when we lost those games.

Owens- It was more so just frustrating because I believed that our team could have won those games that we ended up losing.

Massey- 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?

Johnson- Now that we have gotten over the learning and the frustrating process of changing things, practices, games, everything is so incredibly much more fun.  The energy in practice is consistantly higher than any practice that we have had in the past two years that I have been at Knox, even on our "low" days.  I think the point when we were won over by the style definitely was different for each person.  Once you do something great in the new style and you realize all the potential there is for you to excel it really makes you love it.  I would say that by the second Beloit gamewe most definitely had everyone over that hump and really ready to strive ahead.

Owens- I think we were finally won over by the style in our first game after the new year against Dominican. We looked like a new team and played well despite the loss.

Massey- What is the most frustrating thing about running the System?

Johnson- At first the most frustrating thing was that I missed man to man a little bit.  Another is when shots aren't falling and we can't seem to get offensive boards.  When that happens time after time, it gets really frustrating during a game.  It is becoming easier to break that from happening in a row so many times now though.

Owens- The most frustrating part for me in running the system is only playing 30-45 seconds at a time. It has been hard at times to keep my momentum going after playing well during certain shifts.

Massey- What has been the best part of running the System?

Johnson- Running. Fast breaks and running ahead of everyone the last ten minutes of the half when everyone else is tired is my favorite thing to do.  Especially when I have a point guard like Kristin in who knows me, sees me, and runs with me.  Another is rebounding, I enjoy the freedom that I am given in the System to fly through and grab boards as opposed to conventional.

Owens- I would have to say the best part has been being able to shoot threes whenever I have an opportunity. Also, the fast pace and being able to watch opponents get tired easily.

Massey- What has been the most exciting moment for you so far?

Johnson- Most definitely was this past weekend.  beating Beloit for the second time, proving it wasn't a fluke or chance that we beat them the first time.  Then beating Lawrence as well.  We broke some records this weekend.  It was a nice way to gain support of other students who came out this weekend and realized how fun we are to watch as well as see my inspired teammates, only good can come from that.

Owens- The most exciting moment is winning back to back games in a weekend. I felt confident going into the second game and truly believed that we were going to win.

Massey- 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?

Johnson- Only smiles, some of my teammates I have not seen smile that big.  Crazy stories being told about this and that that happened during the game.  We had six people in double digits I believe so the energy in the lockeroom was by far twice the energy I have been able to be a part of.

Owens- The entire team was happy and no one had anything negative to say. We all knew that we had broken a few school records and were all glad to be a part of making it happen.

Massey- If Coach Cline told you that she was going back to traditional basketball- how would the players react?

Johnson- I don't think it could happen, I couldn't go back to playing that slow again.  I most definitely think Coach would have to put up with a lot of rebellion if she were to try to go back to conventional.

Owens- I think a lot of players would be confused and upset. We all have put in a lot of time trying to figure out how the system works, so I think a lot of players would feel that were just giving up. I personally like to finish everything that I start.

Massey- Do you think this will help with recruiting?

Johnson- I think so, it makes us unique and I also believe we have had more success in our first year of transition then most could have hoped for.  Our record may not show it but go to any of our games and even when we lose it just looks like a high intensity fun group.  It is a beneficial extra bonus that we have over other schools.

Owens- I would like to hope so. I think there are a lot of players out there that would be happy to know that they have a pretty good chance of contributing during their freshman year at Knox rather then "waiting their turn/needing to prove themselves" at other programs.

Massey- So far how does this season rank with your other sports experiences?

Johnson- This season would be my best at Knox thus far and I would have to contribute most of that to my teammates.  I have never been on a team with this much chemistry on and off the court.  Despite the fact that some were questionable and pointing out the negatives at first we took it and ran with it.  We have had more conversations as a team than most could imagine.  You could ask anyone on the team, I guaruntee any one of them say they haven't talked about basketball this much in their lives.  Especially in the beginning at meals, all our off time, before and after games/practices it was all talking about the System and what we were doing.  That may be one of the most influential factors in how well we all get along on the court as well, we know each other as players so well that it's easier to play with each other.  We know each others strengths and weaknesses so well and we cater to that when we share shifts.  I can't imagine that would have ever happened on a traditional style basketball team.

Owens-This has personally been one of the most rewarding seasons. Since this is my last year playing basketball at a competitive level, I have loved being able to finish my career playing a system that I grew up watching.

No comments:

Post a Comment