DAYTON — Ben Halverson has a monumental job ahead of him as Dayton’s new girls basketball coach.
Halverson replaced Cliff Serawop, who was a disappointing 20-51 in three seasons at the helm.
Halverson has been involved in Dayton-area basketball for nine years. He worked with the freshman girls for a couple of years, JV girls for two years and last year was the head JV boys coach. He has worked as a volunteer coach with a couple of programs. He also has worked with Dayton Valley Intermediate teams.
“I’ve known that I wanted to coach since before I was done being a player at Dayton,” Halverson said. “During my senior year, I was able to arrange to work as a volunteer assistant at Dayton Intermediate. I was there every day, and I loved it. Getting to where I am now has been a goal of mine since then. I served a mission after high school, and almost immediately after that was over I was looking for coaching opportunities in Dayton to get my foot in the door again.”
Halverson is tasked with making basketball respectable again.
“There are two critical things that I hope to address in my first year here,” Halverson said. “The first is to address participation from our student body and our athletes in general. In a high school of 700-some students, high levels of participation is a critical component just to fill our teams. Beyond that, though, to be competitive in today’s atmosphere of athletics we need to establish a strong core of our athletes who are willing to commit to developing and reaching their potential as players beyond just November through February.”
That is the culture of Dayton athletics. Way too many athletes at Dayton just play during that season, and make no effort to play summer softball, summer baseball, offseason soccer and volleyball, and summer basketball. It’s a big reason why the athletic programs at Dayton have not fared well. There is a definite lack of commitment.
“While it’s easy to criticize culture and to point out the need to change, as a coach it’s always been my philosophy that the first place to look when searching for accountability is in the mirror,” Halverson said. “That’s a value we’d like to instill in our players and one that as a coaching staff that I feel we need to demonstrate ourselves. We need to do a better job of creating an environment that kids are excited to be a part of. One of first priorities focus on building our players up and developing their self esteem.
“The second thing we want to address is ‘no more talk’. I believe that needs to be embraced by the coaching staffs. I believe that almost anyone with enough preparation can explain a vision of what we’d like to se happen, It’s quite another thing to actually have a plan for reaching that vision and to actually execute it. While having a vision is great, talking doesn’t much matter. It’s what we do that defines us. No one cares about excuses.”
Halverson harks back to the past Hawthorne teams and the current Lovelock teams as role models.
“I’ve seen the amazing things that female athletes can achieve,” Halverson said. “It wasn’t always just wins, it was respect. I want our girls and program to be one that earns that type of respect and that deserves that kind of respect regardless of record because we are high integrity and hard-working individuals. I want our girls to respect themselves as such. It’s the type of program I’d want my daughter to play in one day.”
With that said, Halverson will stress defense.
“I believe success starts and ends on that side of the court,” he said. “In other words, we don’t want to play defense defensively. We want to be the ones on the court who are dictating the action. Offensively, we want to attack efficiently, surgically I guess. We can’t just play offense hard. We have to play it intelligently.”
Halverson originally inherited a team that had nine players coming back that were either full-time or part-time varsity players — 6-foot-4 Taylor Ingersoll (5.4), 6-2 Cora Williams, Ashley Sandy, Gemma Ramirez, Cheyanne Strong (6.7), Lettie Lynch (3.7 ppg), Angela Sikora, Christi Ricci (0.4) and Sierra Ingham (0.6). Another possible returnee, Kaylee Turner (3.8 ppg), elected not to play. Muranda Fowler returns to the program after a knee injury, and Kassidy Cowger, Reilly Gibson and Clare Cerda are new to the squad.
However, the new coach has been hit with a few key injuries. Both Sandy (2.8 points per game) and Ramirez (3.0 ppg) are out for the year with anterior cruciate ligament injuries, and just a few days ago, Williams took a spill during practice and is awaiting MRI results.
“If Cora can’t play, we won’t have anybody over 5-8,” Halverson said. “My approach is different than it was a week ago. We have to pressure people on defense and play more up-tempo. Hopefully we can create turnovers and turn them into points.”
The Achilles’ heel of the Dayton offense last year was the team’s inability to handle full-court pressure and trapping half-court pressure. Halverson feels his team is better equipped to handle pressure better.
“I think we have decent ball-handlers,” Halverson said. “I think the kids have a better understanding of what we want them to do against the pressure. I think this team has a better basketball IQ than it has had in the past.
“We’re trying to break it down for them, so it’s simpler. It doesn’t need to be super-complicated.”
Halverson’s concern is obviously injuries and eligibility. He has 10 players on each of his three teams, and he can ill afford to lose anybody else to injury otherwise he won’t have enough bodies to practice. The first-year head coach hopes that his team’s athleticism and desire can make up for lack of experience.