Nancy Smith learned how to drive the Durango High School girls basketball program over the final half of last season.
Now, in her first full season as head coach, shell continue to pilot the Demons figuratively and literally.
Smith will drive the minibus to Pueblo this weekend when the Demons open play at the Lady Hornet Holiday Tournament, then shell look to begin the process of figuratively steering them through the 2012-2013 season.
Last year, Smith took over a team in flux after the December resignation of Klint Chandler seven games into the season. As such, she had to work around the schemes already installed while working to get on the same page as her players as quickly as possible.
Now the slate is clean, and roles, schemes, playing time everything is Smiths to build from scratch.
Smith, a former collegiate player at Wake Forest University, signed on full-time in the offseason after working out the family particulars with husband Tam Smith and their children. And she couldnt be more excited about the challenge of reshaping a squad that went 5-16 a season ago.
This was thrown in my lap (last season), and Im grateful very, very grateful for it, Smith said.
The process began in the summer at open gyms, where Smith was impressed by the turnout that she said numbered between 15 and 25 throughout the offseason. It illustrated the kind of dedication shes looking for out of a team that has some improving to do to make a run at a postseason spot for the first time since 2010.
To make those improvements, DHS will lean on a core group of returning players. The Demons lost three key frontcourt players in Jerrica Crosby, Taylor Perry and Abby Surmeier and starting point guard Raquel Delgado to graduation. The continued improvement of junior forward Emily McCue whos seen action at the varsity level the last two years as a freshman and sophomore and senior post Shanelle Bogus will be key for a DHS squad not blessed with an abundance of size.
Senior guards Molly Barnes and Alyssa Montoya will be counted on to make leaps in their games as well, and Durango likely will have a long list of players make contributions this year with Smith hoping to speed things up on both ends of the floor.
Weve got a smaller varsity this year, intentionally, Smith said. Every single one of them I think is going to step up and step in. ... Were looking to have a fast-paced kind of program, looking to push the ball up the floor.
From the sound of it, things are going well so far for the Demons in preseason practices. Now comes the tricky step of turning those lessons into quality game performances.
All I have to go on is what we have now, and I hope as long as Im coach, regardless of exactly how much talent we have, well have girls who are willing to do anything (to win), Smith said.