Team camp at Gannon part of busy summer for Sheffield girls basketball program

Sheffield's Marissa Grubbs and her teammates have a busy summer lined up.

While many athletes are wrapping up baseball and softball seasons, or preparing for their fall sports, 13 Sheffield girls have hoops on their mind.

Those 13 traveled to Gannon University Friday and Saturday for a weekend team camp featuring tough competition from across Pennsylvania and Ohio. District 10’s McDowell, Mercyhurst Prep and Villa Maria were there, along with Marion Center from District 6 (Central Pennsylvania) and Ohio’s Liberty and Tuslaw.

“Anytime that you can get your team together in the offseason and play competitive games, it’s a good thing,” said Sheffield coach Brandon Troutman. “It’s essential to continue the growth, as individual players and as a team.”

Getting the team together and playing meaningful competition is especially important in what will be a transition year for the Wolverines. Gone are Sheffield’s top three scorers from last season (Lexi Lyon, Mya Grubbs and Eliza Davidson) who contributed a combined 22.4 points per game. That’s nearly 75 percent of Sheffield’s total point per game average. The Wolverines will need returning upperclassmen and incoming freshmen to learn to work together quickly. Getting them on the court as often as possible will help build that chemistry.

“I feel for incoming freshmen that it is probably a little more pressing to get them in the gym,” Troutman said. “Having a calendar year between the end of eighth grade ball and the start of JV/Varsity ball is tough, and they get a lot of other work in that year off. Keeping them active in basketball AND getting them used to the speed at the next level is huge.”

In addition to the interactions with Gannon’s coaching staff, the event gave the Wolverines a chance to see what other programs are doing, and build confidence by competing with them. Getting 13 girls to the event also showed Troutman how committed his players are to not just maintaining a program, but trying to build a winning culture.

“Our program hasn’t had a winning season since the 2007-08 season, so getting the level of commitment we’ve had the last two summers is wonderful, but the increase in participation this summer is incredible,” Troutman said. “We’re averaging 10 kids per open gym, and getting 13 kids to commit to Gannon, especially with the tough schedule we knew we’d face there, it’s huge. The kids are starting to believe in themselves and each other, and that goes a long ways in the process.”

Reaching that level of commitment hasn’t been easy. Troutman said he had to be conscious of other sports and competitions while building the spring open gym schedule, on top of convincing players they were capable of rebuilding a successful program on and off the court.

“We started open gyms once a week in late April, trying to pick dates that allowed us to get kids in between track, softball, trap, and other activities,” he said. “It’s not a secret that not only have our numbers been down, but so have the number of wins over the last decade.”

To Troutman, the numbers show more than just a commitment to Sheffield basketball.

“There has to be some level of love for the game, because they aren’t going to show up if there’s something comparable or better to do,” he said. “Also, there has to be an aspect of fun for the kids, because giving up summer time is a commitment.”

To maintain that interest, keep the fun and continue facing tough competition, Sheffield will compete in the SEE Group Summer League at Venango Catholic in Oil City for the second straight year.

“I was able to get enough interest in beginning a fairly committed offseason program last year, so we were fortunate to get in then,” Troutman said. “Our players and coaching staff felt good about what we got out of it last year, and decided to return this year.”

The SEE presents a good mix of teams the Wolverines face regularly and those they don’t see often.

“The schedule is competitive for where we are as a program,” Troutman said. “Ike, Youngsville, and Warren are in it, and we see other schools like Maplewood, Franklin, Rocky Grove and Titusville. So we get to see a few teams that we have on our regular season non-league schedule, and some teams that we don’t face, so it’s a good balance.”

SEE play begins Thursday and games are played weekly. Troutman plans to wrap up the scheduled summer program in early August at the Jesse Fleming Team Camp held at St. Bonaventure.

Of course, those are just the team sponsored events.

“I’m hoping these kids can jump on some of the opportunities out there for individual camps and 3-on-3’s as well,” Troutman said.

Knowing the number of other activities his players are involved in, Troutman is just trying to find that right mix that keeps the program growing without forcing his players to shortchange their other interests.

“A lot of these girls play multiple sports, so we can’t take all of their time with hoops because they have to improve across the board, and they have to be kids and enjoy summer too, so finding a balance in all of that is huge,” he said. “Luckily for us, we have something good going for us right now.”