Gaston girls hope to put last season behind them under a first-year coach

In his first year at the helm, Derek Anderson is looking to do something at Gaston High School that hasn't been done in a while - put a winning girls basketball team on the court and build a tradition of success.

And that has the folks at Gaston excited for the first time in a long time.

'We're really, really excited to have him here,' said Gaston athletic director Tim Olietti. 'He told us that he wants to stick around and build a program here.'

Anderson, Gaston's third girls basketball coach in the last four years, has his work cut out for him after a disappointing 2005-06 season that saw the Greyhounds win just one game in 22 tries. However, his infectious enthusiasm and focus on playing hard-nosed defense already has things looking up.

'It's going to take some time,' he said. 'But we've got 30 girls out this year and that's amazing for a school this size. We're really young, but that's also a good thing. That means I'm going to have two to three years basically coaching the same girls.'

Anderson is currently in the midst of installing a new system both offensively and defensively, with the focus on stingy defense and easy buckets in transition.

'We're defensive oriented. We like to put a lot of pressure on you defensively,' he explained. 'We're going to man you up, deny the passing lanes and try to force turnovers that lead to easy baskets.'

Anderson's system proved successful at Trinity Christian High School in Las Vegas, where he was the head girls coach for four years before taking on the boys coaching job at North Kitsap High in Poulsbo, Wash., last year. Dissatisfied with coaching at a large school, Anderson started looking for a new gig over the summer.

'I don't necessarily know if it was that I didn't care for coaching the boys or if I didn't care for coaching at such a big school,' he said. '(Trinity Christian) is about the same size as Gaston and I'd had success with the girls there, so this seemed like a good fit for me.'

Anderson understands that it will be an uphill battle to build a consistent winner at Gaston, but he likes the school and he likes the challenge.

'I've looked back a little bit and I know that the last few years have been pretty tough here,' he said. 'The bottom line is that the girls want to win, but we're basically starting over. We're starting from scratch.'

This year's team will feature three seniors, five juniors, three sophomores and a freshman, so the future is bright for Anderson, but the potential also exists for the team to be competitive right away.

'I'm really proud of our three seniors for coming out this year,' said Anderson. 'This is their third coach in four years. They've basically had to learn and adapt to a new philosophy ever year. Hopefully they understand that they're laying the foundation.

'If this program is successful five or 10 year from now, we'll always look at them as the ones who laid the foundation.

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