By Jerry Del Priore
After graduating four seniors from last season’s squad, all of which played with Millennium High School girls basketball team since their freshman year, head coach Brian McCarthy said he’s looking for players to step up this coming campaign.
That includes current sophomores Isabella Park and Liliana Hetherman, young ballers who’ve displayed a ton of promise and helped guide the Lady Phoenix to a 15-2 record and Manhattan A South first place finish last season.
Park, 15, averaged a solid 10.33 points per game (ppg) in 12 contests before a year-ending posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury forced her to the sidelines in January.
Attending a scholastically-centered school, the Manhattan native said playing the demanding point guard position as a freshman was made easier due to the support of her teammates.
“I definitely walked in and I knew the role coach wanted me to play on the team,” Park said of handling the one spot as an underclassman for the Lady Phoenix. “And I was really stressed at first with everything academically at Millennium; Millennium is a very challenging school. But the basketball came so easy because all of the team was welcoming, and I felt I could handle everything with them on my team.”
While Hetherman didn’t see as much hardwood action as Park, she did manage to make solid contributions to the Lady Phoenix with 5.33 p.p.g. and 36 rebounds in 15 tilts, the fourth best on Millennium in 2017-18.
Now pressed into action because of the players’ departures, the five-foot-nine Hetherman feels she has developed more confidence because the squad is relying on her more, not to mention an increase in height and hoops abilities.
“I think last year because we had a lot of seniors and they were good, that lowered my playing time a lot,” the Park Slope resident said. “I think I improved a lot since last year, not only skill-wise, but a lot mentally. So now I have a lot more confidence because now I have more of a role because those players have moved on.”
Park, who attends Millennium’s Manhattan campus, will go as far as saying that summer ball helped make her teammate into a better, more complete player.
“Lily, over the summer, I think something happened. I don’t know what happened; she transformed,” she said. “But scrimmaging with her in practice just recently, she has been such a key factor on the court. I’m so proud of how much she’s changed.”
McCarthy just wants to see his center continue to increase her hardwood self-assurance while unleashing inner her mean streak, leading to a better overall game this campaign.
“I would like to see her just continue to build her confidence,” he explained. “She’s got all the physical skills in the world. It’s just her getting over that hump of knowing that she can perform, and is expected to perform, at a high level. She’s timid and I don’t think she understands how good she can be. She has a very high celling”
As for the five-foot-five Park, physical attributes aside, McCarthy has her reading leadership books in an effort to make her into an on-court pseudo coach.
“Even though she’s a sophomore,” McCarthy said, “I like her to take control, be a captain and be someone who’s going to lead the team, leading by example, vocally and just showing them exactly what to do, where to be, and how to work hard, besides me saying it. It’s going to be something different we haven’t had in while.”
In an effort to push the Lady Phoenix to heights beyond a third-round ousting to Bronx Science last season, McCarthy has increased the difficulty of its non-league tilts.
“I really like our chances,” the Upstate New York native said. “We have a tough non-league schedule that I set up, so we’re going to be playing the better teams in the city. We also travel upstate and play some very good teams. We’re going to be battle-tested when the time comes for playoffs. I expect us to go farther than we did last year.”
Millennium hosts High School of the Future Tuesday December 4 at 4;30 p.m. in the regular season tipoff.