Jeff Cook is back in the coaching saddle this season, after a 12-year absence. Cook, who remains Pleasantville’s activities director, is also serving as head coach of the girls’ varsity basketball team.
The Trojans will likely be inexperienced, as four of the five starters from the 2018-19 season graduated. Josie Hutchins is the team’s only returning starter.
However, there are players who have experience on the court coming back – including Bridgette McKinney and Alyssa McConnell. Juniors Faith Vanderhart and Bre Benge will also be key to the Trojans’ success in the West Central Athletic Conference this season. Those players named, as well as junior Kristen Roe, are all of the upper classmen on the 18-member squad.
Cook says there is a trend of smaller numbers in girls’ basketball this season. For instance, the biggest team in the WCAC has 21 players. One of the toughest competitors Pleasantville will face, Des Moines Christian, has only 14 players. The lower number in Pleasantville is reflective of more girls focused on softball.
Despite the low number, Cook is proud of the players he has. They have put in a lot of work and he’s been building his strategy around the sophomores on his team who have already played together a light. They will be one of the Trojans’ bright spots this season. Those sophomores include Adi Adreon, Darrah Core, Rachel Harvey, Malorie McKinney, Carlie Sloan, Payton Thill, Riley Thill and Elle Windholz. Freshman players include Olivia Anthony, Sophia Mason, Makenzee McCollum, Ashlyn McConnell and Azell Smith.
Cook believes the entire WCAC will be strong again this season, with DMC, Van Meter and Panora all presenting strong challenges. Cook says Pleasantville has to beat them. Ogden will likely be good as well, with Denali Logher, who has signed to play softball at the University of Iowa.
The girls’ first game will be at home Nov. 25 against Saydel. The next night, Nov. 26, they travel to take on Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont. The following Monday and Tuesday will put the Trojans against intra-county rivals Twin Cedars and Melcher-Dallas. The Melcher-Dallas game will be at home for Pleasantville, and will feature several familial ties for Cook.
Jan. 31 is Pleasantville’s Cancer Crushers event. Madrid will be the opponent for the boys and girls. Overall, Cook is eager to get the season started, watching his players grow on the court and learning more about the game.