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Learning curve

Sandy girls summer basketball team is filled with youth


by: KRISTOPHER ANDERSON - Brooke McAllester is a member of the Sandy girls summer basketball team, which lost 37-16 to the Barlow Bruins Monday. She is one of the few returning varsity players.The immediate future of Sandy girls basketball could be seen on the court of the Barlow High School gym this week. And the future is young.

Hailey Valitski, a sophomore, was one of the Pioneers' few familiar faces in a 37-16 loss to the Bruins Monday evening. She split time between varsity and JV last year with most of her minutes coming at the lower level.

But that is irrelevant now.

This summer she's a leader and playing major minutes against varsity talent.

"It's crazy," she said. "I feel like I'm so much older than I am playing with all these older girls. I feel like I'm one of those little girls that all the younger girls look up to, which is nice but then it's a lot of pressure at the same time."

Someone like Valitski is inheriting more responsibility than a typical player her age. That's because Sandy girls basketball is starting a youth movement. It lost seven seniors following last season and only four players are returning.

The program is expecting five transfer players, and as of now, there won't be any seniors on the varsity squad.

So this summer has been an opportunity for most girls to experience varsity and play together for the first time.

"We're so new," Valitski said. "We have so many girls that haven't ever played with each other, that we're still trying to get used to each others' personalities, and that's why summer ball is such a great experience for all of us."

On Monday against Barlow, a Class 6A team consisting of numerous players with varsity experience, the Pioneers' youth was at times evident.

It took 15 minutes for Sandy to score its first points of the second half - Kaylee Barnett, a transfer student, hit a three, cutting the deficit to 30-13. The Pioneers were bullied into turnovers, flustered by the aggression of the Bruins. Players hesitated to command the floor and take open shots when they were available.

But there were moments that showed potential, as well.

When the Pioneers developed tempo and were running the floor - a style coach Matt Gist began implementing last season - their offense was productive.

"Basketball is definitely a game about rhythm, and once you find that rhythm its hard to break it," Valitski said. "We just have trouble finding that rhythm, but once we find that rhythm we're almost unstoppable."

Gist said the focus of the summer season is for the girls to experience varsity speed.

"The biggest point of emphasis to me is teaching them to play at their full potential," Gist said. "You can see that a few kids, because of where they played before, stop and take that split second off. And you can't do that on a varsity floor. If you do that on a varsity floor, you're beat."

Sandy is at the beginning stages of rebuilding, and that's brought a handful of changes to the program. Gist is focused on conditioning, getting his team ready for his intense tempo. Before the upcoming season, the Pioneers will be able to spend more time in the gym than ever before.

"We're going in the right direction," Gist said.

And with a large influx of newcomers, there is a need to quickly prepare players for varsity.

Sandy is building for the future, and the future is now.

Reporter Kristopher Anderson can be reached by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.