It didn’t take long for Keith Leslie to get things how he wanted as the new Hoptown girls’ basketball coach.
Having served as an assistant under former coach and down boys’ coach Anthony Babb, the transition was a simple one for Leslie as he prepares the Lady Tigers for the 2021-22 season.
“Going into week one, I feel like we’re still not where we need to be defensively but we’re going to get there,” Leslie said. “We have a lot of senior leadership with eight seniors on the team. In time as the season progresses, I think we’ll be good.”
The transition started by getting players in shape and getting them ready to play up and down all 84 feet of the floor.
“My biggest thing was conditioning,” he said. “We are making sure to get our conditioning in and turn into a complete defensive ball team where ball pressure is constant.”
After a disappointing end to a year ago, falling in the Eighth District Championship and the first round of the regional tournament, Leslie said the Lady Tigers are ready to reclaim their place at the top of the district once again.
“The mindset is completely different now,” he said. “This group of girls — they really want it now. This is their redemption season.”
That redemption begins with senior Donisha Flowers.
A year removed from the COVID-19-plagued season that saw Hoptown fall the district title game, Flowers has undergone a physical transformation and Leslie said the senior is ready to lead the Lady Tigers back to a championship.
“Donisha is a complete leader on the floor and off the court,” Leslie said. “She’s an extension of me as a coach out there on the floor. I’m excited for her senior year. She’s excited and we’re just looking for some great things to happen.”
While Flowers is important as the leader, guard play with Shaterrea Bellamy, Lashanti Wilson and Faith Dansbury will be essential to Hoptown’s success as well.
“They really have a good chemistry on the floor,” he said. “They love each other and they talk on the floor. I’m excited for them and Faith to get down and play.”
Leslie is hoping for a big step forward for Wilson as the freshman has a full year of varsity experience under her belt coming into high school.
“Her expectation is high — we set the bar high for her,” Leslie said of Wilson. “She’s adapting to that and her expectations for herself have gotten higher. She doesn’t have to be the complete player she will be now but she’s getting better.”
The returners for the Lady Tigers will be key as they kick off their 2021-22 season on Nov. 30 against Livingston Central.