Newly appointed Ronan Maidens’ basketball coach Steve Woll knows exactly what he won’t have returning for the 2017-2018 season.
Woll, who inherited a Ronan team which came off a historical 2016-2017 campaign with a record of 23-2 that included a divisional championship and a state appearance, lost seniors Alicia Camel and Lee Camel, two key components, to graduation this season.
During their senior campaign, the two Camel cousins combined to score over 400 points each. Both finished with over 1,200 career points and amassed 1,800 career points during their four-year career.
Woll, the former Ronan Chiefs’ coach, knew even more specific numbers on what he will have to replace this season.
“Right off the bat, we are going to have to replace 35 points, 18 rebounds, seven assists and three blocked shots per game,” Woll said. “That is a lot of points.” Because the Maidens lost two impact players, Woll said he has a philosophical approach and he has a phrase he would like to see his team adopt.
Woll acknowledged several successful programs that include Belt, Arlee, Charlo, Florence, and Columbia Falls that don’t lay the groundwork to build a championship-caliber team in the fall because the foundation is set in the summer.
Woll reminds his team by using this phrase: “There will come a time when the winner will ask you ‘what did you do this summer?’” Woll said. “That is what I told the girls. We are trying to get back to the fundamentals and basics and not just playing individual improvements. We have a long ways to go but it will start showing up because the girls are trying to improve their game.”
Standing behind his philosophical approach, Woll has pitted Ronan teams against some high-caliber programs in summer scrimmages.
“The last couple of weeks we have played against some really high quality teams and (because of that) we’ve been able to see where we were,” Woll said. “Probably our biggest strengths are our attitude and effort the girls have put in. I am most excited about some of the time our girls have put in over the summer and they keep wanting to learn, improve and work hard.”
Woll, who said he coached the Ronan Chiefs’ basketball program from 2008-2016 when they played at both the Class A and B levels, had “a lot of good kids come through the program.”
Woll said he isn’t just trying to win basketball games but also hopes to cultivate better people.
“That is what I love about basketball and that is probably my favorite thing, is being in the trenches,” Woll said. “We like to teach the value of citizenship and academics. That is one of our ultimate goals.”
With the Maidens transitioning from Class B to Class A, Woll acknowledges that it will “take time” for his team to reach their initial goals.
“I think the first time around (in the Class), you have to get familiar with the other teams, their makeup and their tendencies,” Woll said. “The second time around, you make adjustments on coaching and film for everything to come into play. The third time is when you want to advance. By the third portion of the season, everyone will have made adjustments. Everything is kind of a process and you just have to go with that approach and get a little bit better each time.”
Woll said he felt the process will take time to get used to playing teams in the Maidens’ newly assigned class.
“It’s going to take a while for me to get to know some of the teams,” Woll admitted. “I don’t know anything about Browning. I know Libby, Columbia Falls, and Polson but still haven’t seen Whitefish. Some of the Southern teams are up-and-coming quality programs and because we will be up against this type of competition, we will have our work cut out for us. It is kind of exciting to go to something new but we have a steep mountain we have to climb. We are going to have to make sure that we are in good shape and try to get a little better today to get to Divisionals and have a chance to get to the state tournament.”
Woll said he and his coaching staff are working hard to make a successful transition.
“Our coaching staff will do nothing but make us better and the staff will take notes after every game,” Woll said. “That is how it’s going to be for our team. By analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of what we did in each game, we will get an idea of what direction we need to head.”
Woll knows the success won’t be instant.
“Its going to take some time and it’s not something that is going to happen overnight,” Woll said. “We had some 7th and 8th graders also play on the JV, and they have demonstrated some enthusiasm. Everyone wants to get better. I reward them with some summer games. It’s really exciting for me and the future looks pretty bright.”
Woll isn’t just looking as far as this year with several returners back from last season’s team that was so successful. He is also looking towards the future.
“We are trying to build a program for now and in the future to make a complete program,” Woll said. “I think by having a complete program it will breed success year in and year out.”