Dan Jewett’s East-River 17-U squad and the importance of building relationships on the court

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With the month of July jam-packed full of AAU tournaments Dan Jewett’s East River Sacred Hoops 17-U squad is ramping up their practice sessions every Wednesday and Thursday. While the squad is full of girls that get after you defensively, the 15-U and 14-U East River squads practice at the same time, on the same days and that really pumps up the VOLUME at practice.

“We have some really intense practices and those 14-U girls will not back down from anyone,” Jewett said. 

Jewett, who teaches 4th-grade and coaches the high school girls’ basketball team at Tri-Valley says having those additional girls/players all at the same practice site is energizing the AAU playing field out east. 

“We have enough girls that we can do five-on-five stuff and that creates practices that have a built-in energy about them,” Jewett said.

Jewett says that energy has been present from the first practice in early April where the girls met just once a week through April and May. With just one tournament under their belts, (Omaha), the Tri-Valley coach is looking for his team to mesh as they become better teammates.

“We need to just be able to move the ball better on offense,” Jewett said. “We still tend to force some shots instead of making that one extra pass, but that will come the more we play together.” 

Like many of the Sacred Hoops coaches, Jewett isn’t focusing on wins or losses, just effort. 

“The big thing with me on traveling teams, and even what I tell my own team is JUST PLAY HARD,” Jewett said. 

While the roster of Tess Limberg (Mitchell), Tishara Hardy (Flandreau), Grace Schlechter (Faulkton Area), Payton Morgan (Mitchell), Ashtyn Bertram (Flandreau), Elena Yellow Bird (SF O’Gorman), Hannah Parsley (Flandreau), Marianna Pavlis (Flandreau) and Isabella Vitek (Scotland) is getting to know their coach, Coach jewett is getting to know his players and so far he likes what he’s seeing. 

“Tess and Payton will get after you on defense and they can really run the floor,” Jewett said.

Flandreau junior Hannah Parsley is playing up this season and Jewett likes Parsley’s intensity and willingness to work on her game. 

“Hannah likes to take it to the basket and she’s good at that but you can really tell she’s spending some time working on the shooting component of her game,” Jewett said. 

At the start of the AAU Season, the East River 17-U squad was a tad small. Marianna Pavlis was the only player with any kind of post-game, BUT, that changed when Scotland’s 6-foot-2 Isabella Vitek joined the squad. 

“Having a 6-2 girl is like having a 7-foot boy,” Jewett said. “You can get your guards to pressure the ball because you have size and a presence back there protecting the rim.” 

At a recent practice Sioux Falls O’Gorman player Elena Yellow Bird was grabbing every rebound and Jewett turned to the 15-U coach and said, ‘We should start calling her Kurt Rambis.’ (Of note here, none of the girls knew who Kurt Rambis, one of the NBA’s All-time great role players was). 

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Jewett noted Faulkton Areas’s Grace Schlecter is another super athlete that can get up and down the floor and shoot the ball. (While getting to know his team this summer, Jewett found out that Schlecter is cousins with Hannah Parsley) 

While Jewett has spent most of his 24-years teaching and coaching working with boys, he just finished his third season as Tri-Valley’s girls coach with his team finishing the year at 11-11. 

“We had three teams from our conference, West Central, Madison and Vermillion that all went to the state tournament,” Jewett said. “We had two seniors and at times one sophomore, one freshman and an 8th-grader.”

Jewett and his Tri-Valley girls will soon be heading for a team camp in Aberdeen and he looks forward to the girls getting to know each other better off the court. 

“Our school (Tri-Valley) sits in the middle of the county comprising towns of Colton, Crooks and Lyons and our kids are really spread out,” Jewett said. “These camps and this ‘hanging out’ experience is an opportunity for our kids to get to see each other outside of the halls and outside of basketball practice.” 

Jewett, who coaches 4th-grade now after a long stint as a 5th-grade teacher saw most of his Tri-Valley players when they were 9-10 years old.

“The best thing about coaching and teaching is watching them turn into young adults,” he said. 

Team Bonding: 

·     Last year Jewett turned some of the team bonding responsibilities over to his seniors, who organized a TEAM sleepover before the season started. 

·     Before the Region tournament the girls, and coach, all went out for an evening of bowling. 

Personal: “I think with athletics I general we are teaching these kids life skills and work ethic. You have to work hard in athletics just as you do with your job or life. Another thing is communication and building those bonds to be able to work together. When you have a traveling team with ten girls and each of those girls are top-dog or 2ndbest on their team and you have to learn to work together and sometimes sacrificing things like scoring points. We’ve only played in one tournament (Sacred Hoops) and the girls are figuring it out and starting to build those relationships.”