Hurricane is hoping help from a rival, help from a neighboring county and help from within will be enough to take a drastic step forward from an abysmal girls basketball season this past year.
The Redskins won just once in a 22-game 2016-17 season, with a 29-15 conquest of Point Pleasant being the only highlight in a season full of being on the wrong side of lopsided beatings.
But this year there is reason — in fact three of them — the be excited again about Hurricane girls basketball.
It starts at the top where Shawn Lucas, who helped turn a five-win Winfield program into a state-tournament team in just two years, makes the move professionally to Putnam County’s lone Class AAA school, though he’s lived in Hurricane for two decades.
Hurricane is also where his daughter Brooke attends and plays point guard. While Lucas was enjoying a 23-5 season with the Generals a year ago, his little girl was dealing with the discouragement of loss after loss in the same house.
Lucas chose to compete in only four games during the three-week practice period (two against Poca and two against Lincoln County), which concludes at the end of this week, instead focusing on getting in the gym and installing his system and getting acclimated with his new roster.
“I live 2 miles from the school so it’s really convenient,” Lucas said. “The previous job I had, in two years we went from 5-17 with six players to the state tournament, and it’s not really anything different. I think there are great basketball players. You have to have the ability to get players to come out and then get them to play hard for you.”
Lucas’ goal of returning the Redskins to respectability became a lot more achievable when Mary Rogoszewski, a second-team all-Kanawha Valley selection in 2016, gave a commitment to return to the team for her senior year after taking last year off.
Rogoszewski, who averaged 17.1 points as a sophomore, will provide one of the Valley’s premier offensive weapons capable of long-range shooting and creating her own offense, assuming she returns to form.
“I’ve seen her over the years and I’ve always thought, ‘Man, this girl is really skilled,’ but now I get to see it every day in practice,” Lucas said. “We had a meeting when I took the job and she came to the meeting and I told her I was glad to see her. She’s been to all of our practices and she just loves basketball. I’ll say, ‘What’d you do today?’ And she’ll say, ‘I went to the Y and shot basketball, I came home and played basketball with the neighborhood kids and then I came to practice.’ ”
The additions don’t end there, however. Nadia Legros, a 6-foot rising sophomore, has transferred from Nitro to Hurricane and has also been practicing with the Redskins. Legros averaged 11.6 points for the Wildcats last year and gives Hurricane a legitimate inside presence to go with Rogoszewski’s play-making ability and returner Callen Bostic’s outside shooting.
“Callen is a great shooter and now you have Mary on the perimeter and Nadia inside, it just opens it up for her,” Lucas said. “Last year she wasn’t able to get open, but in this three weeks the floor has been more open and we’ve gotten a lot of good looks.
“You can’t coach size. [Legros will] be a big factor for us inside, and we need that rebounding.”
Lucas helped Winfield become a Class AA state power last year utilizing an up-tempo, pressure defense fueled by the Generals’ athleticism and tenacity. While he hopes to install some of that at Hurricane, Lucas noted that the combination of Rogoszewski and Legros will allow his team to become more efficient in half-court sets and will hopefully allow the team’s returners to settle into roles around them.
“We will play up-tempo, but whether we press all the time like I have before, I don’t know,” Lucas said. “But the girls that played last year, they are working their butts off and they’ve improved tremendously.”
Hurricane, with its new coach and players, could prove to be an “X” factor in Region 4, especially with defending state champion Huntington being hit hard by graduation after last season.
Lucas said the buzz around the program has already begun and that the possibility of more players coming out is a strong one before next year begins.
“[A Lincoln County assistant] said he thought we were really building something special,” Lucas said. “This year, my goal is to do the same thing [as at Winfield], get kids out and build it the same way.”