If Big Walnut girls basketball coach Steve Palmer is heard humming David Bowie walking down the hall, it’s probably because his squad underwent a lot of ch-ch-ch-changes in the offseason.
Bowie might have been singing about artistic reinvention in the classic 1971 song. Palmer, however, reinvented his staff, his offense and his defense looking to improve on an 8-15 mark last season after winning seasons in each of his first two campaigns (14-9 in 2014-15 and 12-11 in 2015-16).
Dave Ring, Sarah Bechtel, Sarah Wheeler and Tabitha Piper are charged with helping Palmer. Ring spent a season as the head coach at Licking Heights in 2011-12.
“(Ring) is a guy who I was with at (Worthington) Kilbourne and who I was with at Tree of Life and we had some success,” Palmer said.
The foursome replaces Gary Miller, Frank Turner and Jessica Simpkins. Miller rejoins former BW coach Bob Scott as an assistant at Olentangy Orange.
“They didn’t do anything wrong — it was just time for a change,” Palmer said. “It was a good, natural time.”
Palmer hopes that a ball-pressure defense will lead to run outs, giving his offense some easier baskets.
“We didn’t score a lot of easy buckets last year,” Palmer said. “We’re really getting after it — our aggression looks better.”
The Eagles will feature an offense that’s more fluid.
“I think we’re putting kids in spots where they’re a little more comfortable … plays that fit the players is a good way to look at it,” Palmer said. “It fits their strengths and, in turn, they’re a lot more comfortable.
“I think I’ve been a set guy in the past where you do this to this to get that, whereas I think this year we have dribble-drive opportunities. We have several players that are three-point shooters — so using that within the offense.”
Thankfully for the staff, there’s plenty of experience returning to aid the transition. Seniors Katie Neff and Taryn Hammond and junior Katie Cochran all return from last year’s team to captain this year’s squad.
“They’ve played — this is their second and third year playing varsity,” Palmer said. “You’d like to think that’s translated into, ‘OK, we’ve been here and we’ve done that.’ I think it’s a little bit of everything that raised the level.”
Kelly Kreager (senior) also returns, along with juniors Stacey Walters, Paige Norman and Alayna Trott and sophomores Erin Boehm and Emily Neff.
“Up until (Boehm broke her finger last year), she was playing really well for us,” Palmer said. “Paige Norman is a junior who started as a freshman … she knows what to expect. Katie Cochran — same thing — she was a varsity player as a sophomore, so this will be her second year. Stacy Walters played last year full time.”
Senior Reagan Fisher joins sophomores Rylee Bussen and Miranda Markel as newcomers who will provide depth for the Eagles.