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Giants' head coach begins to develop future for program

FUTURE GIANTS: Marion girls’ basketball coach Lawrence Jordanputssomefuture Giants through a defensive slide drill Thursday afternoon in Bill Green Arena. Jordan and his staff are using open gyms twice a week to teach fourth- through eighth-grade girls fundamental skillsto help create a foundation for the program.

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

Girls’ basketball season ended less then five weeks ago and Marion coach Lawrence Jordan is already beginning the task of training future Giants players.

Thursday afternoon in Bill Green Arena, Jordan was putting around 25 girls in grades four through eight through their paces, going over various routine basketball fundamentals. The coaching staff had broken the girls into two groups with guards working on ballhandling and the rest working on post moves.

Ample time was spent on layups, particularly using the left hand, and the 90-minute session finished up with the girls running three and five-man weave drills. Throughout the session, Jordan was alternating between positive reinforcement and constructive instruction of the basic skills.

“All the basics,” Jordan said afterward. “Some of the girls, they are sixth and seventh graders by academics, but they are second and third graders by basketball. What I’ve got to do is bring them up to speed strictly on the basics and going over it and going over it and then reteaching it.”

Marion recently completed a 23-5 season and trip to the final four of the Class 3A state tournament, where the Giants bowed out with a loss to eventual state champion Northwestern. It was the program’s most successful season in 38 years, and Jordan has said he intends to keep pushing forward.

Through it all, Jordan had to deal with low numbers and, after some departures at midseason, he had to discontinue the junior varsity team. There also were not enough girls to field a freshman team, and Jordan said the middle school feeder program was in serious neglect.

So Jordan decided to take matters in his own hands and personally train the younger girls and develop a feeder program. He plans to work with the girls twice a week though the end of the school year and will start a Sunday league after spring break.  

“I’m starting my own thing because what I’ve noticed in the past is they haven’t really done anything with the feeder programs, and that’s been the problem in Marion the last three or four years,” Jordan said. “I feel like in order to build a good program you have to have a foundation and that’s what we’re putting in place right now is the foundation.”

Jordan said the first session attracted around 30 girls, and while several were missing Thursday due to spring sports and other commitments, at least four new girls showed up. Besides teaching skills, Jordan hopes the hands-on approach with the younger girls will keep them motivated and involved as they reach high school.

“I’m getting younger girls together because I had to suffer through six girls (on varsity) this past year, and getting these younger girls together now I won’t have that problem in two years,” he said. “I probably won’t make cuts and I’ll keep everybody and have a freshman and reserve and varsity team like you’re supposed to.”

These sessions are also helping Jordan identify promising players and begin the process of getting them ready for varsity as early as their freshman year. Jordan is optimistic one or two of the eighth graders, who will be freshmen this fall, can contribute to the 2019-20 Giants varsity.

Victoria Hardnett, 13, is exceptionally athletic, Jordan said, but still largely undeveloped as a basketball player. Hardnett played for the McCulloch eighth grade team this winter but hasn’t received a lot of outside instruction.

“I’ll go to the Boys & Girls Club or the YMCA – I go hoop where I can,” Hardnett said. “I work out with my friends most of the time and I play during the summer when I have time. I think this will definitely condition me and I’ll be way more ready (for high school) than if I wasn’t doing this right now.”

Ma’Layia Gamble, 11, is a sixth grader at Justice who’s still couple years away from helping the Giants, but she wants to improve her left-handed ballhandling and said Jordan has been patient while teaching her new skills.

“He’s helping me when I need help,” Gamble said. “I want to get better and play in the WNBA.”

Jordan is 44-10 in two years at Marion with two sectional championships and one regional and North Central Conference titles. Yet, he said he’s in his element working with younger girls and developing their skills.

“I will continue with them in the summer,” he said, “... and everything is free. What I’m trying to do is teach the girls and get them some game experience and minutes without having to go to Fort Wayne and having to pay money.

“We are behind (other schools) and I’m trying to get them experience right here and accelerate the process,” Jordan added.