PILOT MOUNTAIN — Caleb Gilley believes his Pilot Mountain Middle boys basketball teams finished in the top two of the conference in each of his five seasons as the head coach, but now a new challenge awaits him.
Gilley is about to embark on his first season as the head coach of East Surry’s girls basketball team. He’s coaching a new gender, and at a higher level, but he is hopeful his success rolls over to his new Cardinals.
“It’s been quite different,” Gilley said. “It’s all about getting kids to buy in to my system. Getting kids to buy in to the fact that we’re going to compete every night, no matter what the score is… I think they’re starting to get it.”
One thing the new coach will have to deal with right away is replacing Sydney Mosley, one of the best scorers in the history of East Surry’s girls basketball program.
Last year’s team limped to an overall record of 9-16, but Mosley was still a volume scorer, averaging 18.4 points per game. This season, Gilley will rely on a offense-by-committee approach, and hope some inexperienced players can step up.
However, the Cardinals do return three seniors in 2015-2016, led by point forward Sydney Marion.
“Sydney does a lot of different things for us,” Gilley said. “We’re going to ask Sydney to handle the ball some for us. She’s our leader, and she’s our biggest player, so she’s going to have to rebound the basketball for us.”
With Marion being the Cardinals’ tallest player, Gilley knows how important her presence on the court will be for East Surry. He hopes her experience helps Marion stay out of foul trouble and in the game.
The other two Cardinal seniors are Serena Pickens and Alyssa Martin. Pickens is one of the Cardinals’ best defenders, but she’s also improved her offense in the buildup to this year and looks to be a little more consistent scoring points this year.
Martin is “freakishly athletic,” but hasn’t played a lot of basketball. Gilley is hopeful she can find a role and consistently make an impact by the time the Cardinals reach their conference schedule.
One of the newcomers who has pleasantly surprised Gilley is Cheyenne Frech, a sophomore who didn’t play last season, but will immediately earn minutes this year.
“Cheyenne is a very good shooter. She is kind of crafty with some of the moves she makes with the ball, so we’re hoping she can get some confidence early on,” Gilley said.
Junior Bryce Smith and sophomore Madison Bowman will all see minutes, and can expect to play stellar defense while on the floor. Gilley hopes his team’s defense leads to offense and proves to be its biggest strength in the early stages of the season.
“We’re going to need to create turnovers and push the tempo,” Gilley said. “We really want to get up and down the court with the ball on the floor and create some mismatches… It’s going to start with defense. We’re going to have to keep teams from scoring.”
Three players who could help ease the pressure on East Surry’s offense are Molly Slater, Karley Jessup and Maddi Pennington. Gilley noted that Slater and Jessup both posses “high basketball IQ’s,” and each should easily build on their average of four points per game from last season.
Pennington is a transfer from North Surry who will provide an immediate boost to the Cardinals. Pennington could play some point guard this year, with exceptional ball-handling skills, and is also an above-average shooter. She will fit right in to the Cardinals’ perimeter and outside-shooting attack.
East Surry will kickoff its season on Dec. 1 on the road against the North Surry Greyhounds.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16