Greene County's Makala Kakfer defends an Ogden ball-handler during the Rams' 49-26 win Dec. 5 in Jefferson.  BRANDON HURLEY | JEFFERSON HERALD

Girls' Basketball: Greene County’s focus on fundamentals, growth spearhead season of change

You try and get kids excited about a program, proud to be apart of it. If you develop a sense of pride, they start to play hard, they play unselfish, start to believe in it. - Greene County girls’ coach Todd Gordon

By BRANDON HURLEY

Sports Editor
sports@beeherald.com

@BrandonJHurley

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A new perspective should define the Greene County girls’ basketball team moving forward. A lost soul searching for love is the most dangerous kind.

It’s why new head coach Todd Gordon led his athletes onto the gym balcony on the first day of practice, pushing them to drink in a different view, a chance to conjure up an infatuation.

Success often requires a bit of a gamble. It may require a certain type of restructuring, looking at things at a new angle. Gordon wanted his athletes to really take in the significant scope of a basketball court. Restricting the game to one-third of the hardwood does little good. Spacing is a must, a magnificent way to break a full-court press or to find an open shot. Patience breeds success, but it doesn’t come without an extra ounce or two of dedication. When Gordon first took over the girls’ program during the summer, he evaluated where the girls were at as a whole. It was time for change, and the solution was simple – start from the ground up.

“We needed to redefine how we work and redefine what hard work means,” the coach said. “That’s not to take away what anyone else has done. But redefining hard work meant getting into the gym in the summer.”
Gordon certainly has the credentials to engineer a turnaround for a program starving for wins.

The Greene County activities director inherits a squad which has endured a world of hurt throughout the last decade or so. The Rams managed just four wins combined in the two previous seasons, including a program low single win in 2018-19, never once cracking the double digit plateau in the last five seasons. No combination of Greene County or Jefferson-Scranton girls’ basketball has attained a winning record since the 2008-2009 season, a span of 12 years.

With that said, the Rams do return a stable of talent this winter, including all but one of last year’s starters. A surplus of depth and experience bodes well regardless for a crew itching for a bit of success.
Gordon’s ability to grasp the bigger picture provides immediate hope, pulling with him a substantial background in basketball and winning.

He last coached basketball in 2011, his final year as a boys’ assistant at Treynor High School, where he spent six years in the program. The Cardinals were 23-2 in Gordon’s final season, securing a Western Iowa Conference title and a trip to the state tournament. Treynor also reached the state tournament in 2006. Gordon held the girls’ head coaching position at Harlan Community High School from 2001-2005. He also led the Nebraska Christian College’s men’s basketball program for two years from 1999-2001 in Norfolk, Nebraska.
Gordon’s most successful coaching stint in a career that spans more than two and a half decades came during the 10 years he spent at Manning High School as boys’ basketball coach in the 90s. Gordon won 115 games from 1989-1999, securing a number of conference championships in addition to Manning’s first state tournament berth in 33 years (1994).

Gordon got his coaching start at Walnut High School in 1985, leading the girls basketball, track and volleyball programs. He then jumped to Lisbon High School where he coached the boys’ basketball team and the girls’ basketball team for two seasons. The coach has experienced his fair share of success over the years. In order for Greene County to recapture the glory they achieved in the past, it may boil down to possessing the right attitude, having a willingness to commit to the process and developing a strong passion for victories.

“It’s about doing the right things consistently. There are a lot of things you can do, some of them aren’t advantageous, but doing everything with a purpose, even the way you get dressed for practice, it can make a difference,” Gordon said. “You try and get kids excited about a program, proud to be apart of it. If you develop a sense of pride, they start to play hard, they play unselfish, start to believe in it.”

Greene County’s revitalized effort began blossoming in the Greene County elementary school gym, the only facility available to the girls during the summer months. For an hour each day, the Rams put up shots, feeling the rush of change each step along the way. The work began to pay dividends as the girls grew closer, building a basketball bond, growing their expertise.

“It was good to spend some time together,” Gordon said. “It wasn’t really about shooting the basketball at all, it was about making the commitment to being there everyday.”

The depth of Greene County’s current squad should prove vital throughout a treacherous schedule. Junior Brianna Habben came on strong in the second half of the schedule a year ago, finishing with averages of six points per game, 6.5 rebounds per contest and 1.3 blocks per match, a solid enough force  to build around. But, offense was certainly an area of struggle for last year’s Rams. The girls’ averaged just 25.3 points per game, with losses by an average of nearly 40 points (38.3). GCHS has struggled to hit shots consistently for awhile now, which has become a gigantic sore spot. The Rams connected on a terrifyingly-low 23.2 percent of their shots last winter, including just a 21 percent mark from beyond the three-point line. Improving those percentages begins with a better knowledge of the game, Gordon said, in addition to an increase in repetition.

“If you look at basketball in general, it comes down to taking the right shots and knowing what a good rhythm is, or if (a good shot is) not there, pass it,” Gordon said. “It’s a matter of not setting for shots. But, it’s our job as coaches to get them in the right position on the floor. A lot of it is realizing that just because you’re open, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good shot. Getting that timing right. So many little things go into getting one good shot.”

Gordon has experienced first-hand how well the Rams have responded to his new shift in culture, appreciating their willingness to learn. It’s certainly become a strength as opened the 2020-21 season with a convincing win over Ogden Dec. 5..  
“They are very coachable and No. 1, they are great people,” Gordon said of this year’s Greene County squad. “They have really embraced the change the pace in how we practice, the effort we want. They’ve encouraged each other, they are picking each other up.”
As far as how Gordon envisions the season unfolding, he understands there is a bit of a learning curve involved. Substantial growth may not be entirely measured in pure wins and losses, but by whether or not the Rams make individual gains, enough so they improve as a team on the floor.

“December is going to be a feeling out period, (we will) use it to get a rhythm, taking it as growth,” Gordon said. “I’m anxious to see where we can go. We have to play games to see what we can work on. My expectations are to get better day-by-day.”

 

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