GRAND RAPIDS — Although the Grand Rapids High School girls basketball team is young this season, it returns a number of experienced players who promise to make it an exciting season for the Thunderhawks.
Kris Hamling returns to begin her eighth season as head coach of the Thunderhawks. She said a number of seniors were lost to graduation from last year’s squad with just one senior – Jenny Bowman – returning. The remaining roster is comprised of sophomores and freshmen which shows that the future is bright for the Thunderhawks.
“We have an extremely young team this year,” said Hamling. “But we are bringing back some very experienced players. When you look at our returning roster, we have just two returning starters but the other four girls that will be starting and rotating have quite a bit of experience.
“So, it’s looking like it is going to be a fantastic year for us.”
Besides Bowman, who will again play in the paint for Grand Rapids, others include sophomore guard Taryn Hamling, sophomore guard/forward Katie Jamtgaard, sophomore guard Kyra Giffen, freshman center/forward Jessika Lofstrom, freshman guard/forward Braya LaPlant, freshman Amanda Scherping, and sophomore Hannah Hostetter.
Other players who will be vying for playing time include freshman Peyton Skelly, sophomore Samantha Brink and sophomore Reiley Leppanen.
“Already I have seen communication on the floor,” Hamling said. “My goodness, they are non-stop talking to each other and everybody wants everybody to do well which is amazing. We have stressed communication for the last four years and gradually it has gotten better but I haven’t even had to mention it once and they are already doing it.
“So, I think the keys are sticking together, communicating, picking each other up off the ground if there are bad days or if there are some errors made. And because they are young, a big key is for them to learn the system even more in depth than they knew it last year. They knew it well enough last year to get it and run it but now they really need to know what different options can actually be run off the different plays that we set for offenses.
“For defense, we have a quick team and they are intense and in your face and I think it is just making sure we maintain that sense of in-your-face defense.”
Playing in the Lake Superior Conference, Hamling said every team is in the same boat. She said teams didn’t get much work in the fall and there really wasn’t much done in the spring and summer either.
“We are all maybe a little behind from this time last year,” said the coach. She said Hermantown and Duluth Marshall should be considered the top teams in the conference this early in the season.
In Section 7AAA, Hamling feels Hermantown, Chisago Lakes and Princeton will be tough this season.
“Right now, I feel we are winning our section this year,” said Hamling. “I am that confident in these girls. In watching them play I am so excited. I put us back in the section final this year. We are proving a point this year and they know what has to get done. I think we have the team to be able to do it.”
Assisting Hamling in the coaching department are Rich Kane, assistant varsity coach, Kelly Hanson, junior varsity coach, and Eric Blair, C squad coach.
“They are hard-working; they push themselves but they also are so much fun. This group is pretty special to me,” Hamling explained. “A lot of the 10th graders that (daughter) Taryn grew up with, when she got pulled up to the varsity she didn’t get to play with them that much. But now they are all back together again and then you add Jenny Bowman to that. I just can’t wait to see how far this group can go and what they all are going to bring to the program. It is going to be really amazing for us.”