While most high school students kick back and relax Patterson’s varsity players are kicking it into high gear. The season represents a to-do list filled with weekly practices and games in Modesto Junior College’s summer league.
“Our success for next season is based on how much we improve during the summer — these girls are on the right track,” said Patterson coach Elizabeth Tolleson. “Summer play has never been mandatory. But those that put in the extra time make themselves better. I put in extra time with girls that want to put in that time.”
Although Patterson has several strong athletic programs, it has not necessarily been known as a girls basketball school.
Under third-year head coach Tolleson, however, the Tigers emerged as one of the region’s promising programs in 2012-13. Patterson wrapped up its regular season as the undefeated Western Athletic Conference champion, the first conference title for the Tigers since the 2009-10 season, and the first undefeated league campaign for the program since 1978.
But with most area teams operating on year-round schedules as they seek to reach the upper echelons of the sport, there is no chance to rest on reputation.
“The off season is the most important time to develop individually and as a team,” Tolleson said. “I’m hoping that the players really continue to learn basketball. Skills can take you so far, but the knowledge of the game can make a good player a great player.”
Even though the team isn’t required to train during the summer, several returning members, and a host of newcomers, are making an appearance.
“The players are trying to soak everything up like sponges, trying to retain as much helpful information as possible,” Tolleson said.
The returning Tigers see the summer as a prime opportunity to develop the tools to succeed next season, Tolleson said.
“Once the off season starts, we begin to refresh the team’s memory on our offenses and defenses,” she said. “We try to get all of the cob webs off the players’ shots and other fundamentals.”
Though the loss of co-captains Shantel Perez and Janel Ortega to graduation presents a challenge, the squad boasts many promising returning players, including juniors Jovanah Arrington, Dayna Hansen, Kiara Job and Mele Tupouata, as well as sophomore Shealyn Craven and freshman Danille Jenkins, according to Tolleson.
“The girls are getting more acquainted with each other and figuring out how each other plays,” she said. “They are continuing to mold into a team and are learning to read what each other are going to do before they do it.”
Many Patterson High basketball players also compete on the Amateur Athletic Union club circuit in the spring and late summer to be seen by college recruiters. As a result, June and July are the primary off-season times coaches have to work with their teams.
For Tolleson, the biggest benefit of summer play is seeing how last year’s reserves and this year’s rising players will fare.
“My priority is to make sure that we continue to improve,” she said.
High school athletes are encouraged to stay active in the summer.
“Team bonding is also a huge factor on the success rate of our team,” Tolleson said. “If we can figure out how intense we can be, and play hard every time we step on the court, then we’ll be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.”
In addition to playing in the Modesto Junior College summer league, the Tigers will travel to University of California, Los Angeles June 21 to 23 for team camp.
Tolleson will take that opportunity to watch her athletes play as they try to improve their chances of making the varsity squad.
“It takes time for the girls who do not show up during the off-season workout to get the swing of basketball again,” Tolleson said. “Girls will pass up other girls who do not attend. It could mean the difference between being a varsity athlete or a junior varsity athlete.”
Playing sports in the summer requires a unique blend of energy, drive and determination to maintain a taxing schedule, Tolleson said. She described her players as individuals who possess those traits.
“Everyone can use more knowledge in basketball,” Tolleson said. “I’m always learning new things, and the girls should try to ask and learn as much as possible.”
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or email@example.com.