By Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
(Ed. Note: This story is part of CoBL’s “Prepping for Preps” series, which will take a look at many of the top high school programs in the region as part of our 2023-24 season preview coverage. The complete list of schools previewed thus far can be found here.)
The theme for Great Valley girls basketball last season was continuity.
A team led by seven seniors who grew up playing together were led by a coach who’d been around the school for three decades.
This year’s squad will start over.
Former assistant Todd Frederick is the Patriots’ new head coach. He takes over a squad with just one player returning from last year’s rotation.
“I coached them in youth basketball all the way through,” Frederick said of last year’s group, which included his daughter, Lauren. “We kind of gelled really well as a group, and they kind of knew all the sets and stuff. It is a little different this year coming in because those girls are gone. We’re going to kind of dumb things down a little bit and have some different goals than we had last year, but I’m really excited.”
The Patriots went 16-7 (6-4 Ches-Mont American) last season, good enough for the No. 12 seed in the District 1 Class 6A Tournament before a first-round exit. Laura Lum, Gia Sioutis and Lauren Frederick were all-league selections who graduated.
Senior guard Juila Curran is the only Great Valley returner with significant varsity experience. (Photo: Courtesy)
Senior guard Julia Curran, who played with last year’s senior core growing up, returned to the school district for her junior season after spending her sophomore campaign at Archbishop Carroll. She picked up the team’s 26 plays in four weeks and rekindled the chemistry with her former teammates.
This season she will be the veteran trying to integrate a young team into Frederick’s system.
“It’s hard because there’s a big drop off between me being a senior and the freshmen because that’s most of our team,” Curran said. “But we just have to learn how to play with each other and stuff. It will all happen, eventually, but we just have to gell.”
The 5-foot-3 guard played with Books & Basketball this summer. She can run up and down the floor, shoot it from long range and pester offensive players.
Curran will be in a more featured role as a senior. She knows she will have to put the ball through the hoop with consistency as others figure out their way at the varsity level.
“(I can bring) my defense and speed because that’s what I’m the best at,” Curran said. “Last year, that’s what I did. I didn’t need to score because we had other people who could score. But now I have to step into that position to score more in order to win.”
Sophomore 5-7 guard Reilly Lackman and freshman 5-6 guard Kate Weikert look like potential impact players. Lackman is a terrific athlete — she also plays field hockey and softball — who saw some minutes last season. Weikert is another good athlete with basketball acumen.
“When (Weikert) kind of finds out and learns how to play more as a team, (watch out) … but she’s got individual skills and she’s tough,” Frederick said. “She’s really tough.”
After that trio of players, Frederick is excited to see who else will emerge for the Patriots.
“It’s really kind of we don’t know,” Frederick said. “We don’t know what we have yet, and I think there’s going to be some diamonds in the rough that show up. … We’ve got potential. We’re taking kind of a long-term view.”
Frederick will have plenty of help working with the inexperienced group. Former Pennsbury and Temple standout Lavoy Allen is one of his assistant coaches. Jeff Dill, Sara Jones (Northwestern Lehigh/Navy), Rasheed Lawson (Phoenixville) and Justin Wiley all have varied basketball experiences to contribute as well.
The Patriots aren’t in the conversation with the rest of the Ches-Mont contenders with so much unknown about Frederick’s squad heading into the season. But there is still optimism about what they could look like toward the end of the season.
“We’ve got a good nucleus,” Frederick said. “If you look at us from the beginning of the season to where we’re going to be at the end, we’re going to be a totally different team. I’m really looking forward to seeing these girls grow and progress.”