Ashling Davern, who will be a junior guard with the St. Charles North girls basketball team next season, was among a handful of underclassmen that got substantial varsity experience during an up-and-down season last year for North. Davern and her teammates are spending June acclimating to new coach Sean Masoncup, who took over after former coach Colleen Backer stepped down in the spring. Davern, who also will play AAU basketball this summer with Illinois Hoop Dreams, spoke with Kane County Chronicle sports editor Jay Schwab for this week’s Weekend Chit-chat about the coaching transition, North’s up-and-coming roster and her take on summer. The following is an edited transcript:
Did it take a while for you guys to get over the surprise of coach Backer stepping away?
Yeah, it was definitely surprising for everyone. The biggest concern was when was there going to be a new coach, who was it going to be, because it was so close to summer already, but we were all definitely open-minded to who the coach was going to be. I think it was a shock and everything, but in the end I think having coach Masoncup will be really be great for us in the future.
What’s the first impression of coach Masoncup?
Basically our first impression with him is he’s very, very serious about the game. He’s such a great coach, he’s had years and years of experience coaching teams. His vast knowledge of the game is very evident to all of us through the way he interacts us with players and coaches, and he also teaches you the game of basketball at the same time.
How drastic would you say the differences in playing style are between what you guys are used to and what coach Masoncup wants?
Not much is that different. Both coaches had the goal of winning and pushing us to do our best. So far in camp, we definitely have been doing a lot of basic, skill work that has really been helping us and improving every aspect of our game and also been doing a lot more conditioning.
The last couple seasons have been pretty rough for North, but it seem like you guys have some promising younger players in the program. How far off do you realistically think you guys are from competing with the best teams in the conference?
We definitely have a lot of young players, which I think is to our benefit because I believe in the next season or even season after that we’ll be able to compete at a much stronger level. We’ll basically just be able to compete at the levels of the other teams and use all of the strengths the young players have and be able to build on that as the years come, as we all get older and the team gets more cohesive and learns how to play with each other.
What’s been a thing or two you’ve seen already at the start of this summer that’s been encouraging, maybe from a certain teammate, something that’s been a source of optimism?
The thing I’ve see from almost every player at camp is the dedication and determination to get better. Everyone has been putting in more of a 100 percent effort at all times, which only being at camp for a few days now is very, very promising because I know everyone is very serious about making [next season] much better than it has been.
What did you personally take from getting some varsity experience as a younger player that you’re looking to build on in your own game?
Personally I think the biggest thing has been the different speed of the game. The speed of playing at the varsity level is much faster, fast paced. You have to be a lot tougher and more determined and have a strong mindset. … I’ve definitely experienced the ups and downs but plan on using what I’ve learned to help other players and be a leader on the court.
If there a certain skill you’re really wanting to add to your game this summer?
One of the things … is my defense, and that’s something I feel if you’re a good team that can play strong defense and always be aggressive throughout the entire game, that can convert to scoring points at the other end of the court.
Are you one of those people that loves summer all the way through or do you usually get kind of antsy part-way through and start looking forward to going back?
I definitely love the break for summer just to hang out with friends and do stuff [being in school] doesn’t allow you to do but when it comes closer to August, I definitely get antsy and excited for upcoming events that will take place in the next school year.