BY CHAD DARE
There is a new voice directing the Danville girls basketball team this season — but it’s the same message.
Danville assistant football coach and former boys basketball assistant Brian Anderson has taken over the program that was under the direction of Ashley Clanton for the past five seasons.
And while Anderson brings some subtle changes, the players say it’s pretty much the same as years past.
“It’s really not been too big of a change,’’ Danville senior Alexis Jimson-Miller said. “We are still being pushed hard.
“It’s a different practice and a different voice, but other than that, it’s the same message of work hard, get done and finish.’’
Anderson and his Lady Vikings will open the 2012-13 season in the Blue Star Classic tonight as Danville will play Monticello in a 6 p.m. contest at Monticello.
“We are ready to get after it,’’ said Danville senior Breanna Keys. “Coach is looking forward to this season and so do we.
“This is my senior year, and as a team, we are expecting more this year than we’ve accomplished the last couple of years.’’
Danville was 9-17 a year ago, losing to Joliet West in the regional semifinals.
Jimson-Miller, Keys and Michaela Jones are three starters returning from that group.
“These girls are working hard, and they are good girls,’’ Anderson said. “They are working to get in shape, and that will be a big thing.
“We are not exceptionally skilled, so we are going to have to outwork people.’’
And that starts on the defensive end for the Lady Vikings.
“I think we can push tempo and defend lead guards,’’ Anderson said. “The goal is to put a lot of pressure on the other team’s ball handlers.
“With the Michaela and Alexis, along with Ashley Green and Jade Carter, I think we can defend on the perimeter. That should be the best thing we do.’’
And with that pressure defense up top, Anderson hopes that it leads to offensive opportunities.
“Running the floor, definitely,’’ said Jimson-Miller about the Danville offensive philosophy. “We don’t have a lot of size, so we are going to push tempo.
“We’re in pretty good shape and I think running the floor will be good for us.’’
Keys added that defense has been a staple of the Danville program. She believes the Lady Vikings have also made some improvements on the offensive end.
“We worked a lot on our shooting and we’ve gotten better at it,’’ she said. “I think we’re going to be a pretty good basketball team this year.’’
In addition to the improved shooting, Anderson said his guards are also pretty good at attacking the basket.
“We’ve hammered them on the defensive stuff,’’ he said. “Because, we have to pressure the ball to create our offense.’’
The Lady Vikings will play five games in the next six days at the Blue Star Classic.
That’s both good and bad for Anderson.
“We’re going to be teaching while we’re playing, learning while we’re playing and getting in shape while we’re playing,’’ he said. “Last year, they were 0-5 in this tournament, the year before 1-4.
“There are some really good teams there like Centennial and Springfield Southeast, but we don’t want to put ourselves in a hole.’’
Jimson-Miller added a good start is important.
“We need to build our confidence as we start the year,’’ she said. “With the experience we have, we’ve been though game situations before and we know what to expect.’’
After tonight’s game with Monticello, Danville will play Bismarck-Henning on Friday at Champaign St. Thomas More.
The first home game for the Lady Vikings will be Thursday, Nov. 29 against the Decatur Eisenhower Panthers.