The unknown seems to excite Bret Harte High School girls’ basketball coach Mitch Hodson. Hodson has only two returning players from the 2019 season. His current roster includes just two seniors, two freshmen, two sophomores and a bunch of juniors.
With a team that is lacking varsity experience, Hodson doesn’t quite know what to expect this season, although he says he is impressed with what he’s seen of his young squad thus far.
“They are all working really hard,” Hodson said. “And, on top of that, I think we have a lot of girls that are going to develop quickly and that’s really important. We are still working out leadership and volume and that’ll come. I think they are all getting along really well and the atmosphere is really positive.”
The only two returning players are junior Haylee Maddeaux, who is entering her third year as a varsity starter, and senior Tianna Bennett. The only other seniors on the squad are Faith Blodgett and Kinlye Apley, who have no varsity experience.
“Obviously, you wish you had a little more leadership,” Hodson said. “At the same time, we had a lot of bad habits last year and all those bad habits are gone now and we get to start fresh, and hopefully we can improve upon what we did last year as a program.”
Heading into her senior year, Bennett knew she couldn’t just step on the floor the first day of practice and be ready to go. The guard spent the offseason trying to improve her game, and enlisted the help of her father to give her a hand.
“I worked in my backyard on our court with my dad,” said Bennett, whose sister Tawny coaches the Bret Harte JV team and assists the varsity squad. “He would toss me the ball and I would work on shooting and catching. I also shot 100 free throws every day.”
One of the new faces on the varsity squad is junior Kalah Casey. As a sophomore JV player, Casey helped lead the Bullfrogs to a second-place finish in the Mother Lode League standings. Like Bennett, Casey looked to improve herself over the offseason. Her main focus was to improve her stamina, so she joined the cross country team and put in countless miles during the fall in preparation for basketball season.
“My No. 1 thinking was basketball,” Casey said. “I had a person who I look up to tell me that I’m a pretty great basketball player and I have a lot of potential, but what could help me a lot would be my endurance. So, I didn’t make the volleyball team, but I got an opportunity to run cross country and it really helped me. I hate running, but I feel a lot better, stronger and quicker. I feel that it bettered me in so many ways.”
The youngest members of the Bret Harte team are Aariah Fox and Kyla Kirk, who are both freshmen. While it is not uncommon to have freshmen on the varsity roster, Hodson knew right away that he had two quality young players who could help his team immediately.
“These girls are definitely good enough to play for us right now,” Hodson said. “As a matter of fact, there are probably four freshman girls who could play at this level. But because of numbers, we brought these two up. They are working really hard and have already seen a lot of growth.”
The Bullfrogs also have some size on their roster, as the junior duo of Mikenna Grotto and Jaden Arias will patrol the paint. As JV players last year, Grotto averaged 8.5 points and 3.6 steals per game, while Arias pulled down 10.4 rebounds and scored 6.7 points per game.
While Hodson and his team don’t have much of an idea as to how the season will play out, the one thing Bennett knows for sure is that this is her last year of high school basketball and she wants to finish it with a win over Calaveras High School.
“I have a lot of friends on that team and they have their fair share of beating us, so I’d like to beat them just once,” Bennett said.