Turning our attention to the girls’ game of basketball, I recently interviewed O’Connell Head Coach Aggie McCormick-Dix – in her third year at the DJO helm and better known as the founder and longtime coach of the Fairfax Stars. Her Knights are displaying much-improved play this winter on the high school hardwood – sporting a 10-11 record overall. As a side-note, I really like the games of juniors Janiya Clemmons and Jasmine Taylor...a pair of impact players who are just now coming into their own on the scholastic scene. But, enough on my favs, let’s hear from the coach.
Q. It’s year three in the Aggie McCormick-Dix era. How do you feel about where we are currently in rebuilding the girls’ basketball program? Certainly there have been some bumps in the road, but, at the same time, I have to believe that you are pleased with the direction that we appear to be heading. Talk about that, if you would.
I am very pleased with the direction we are headed. What I have learned is that not everyone wants to be a part of building something that will last a long time. Some would prefer for it to just have been built for them. Everyone is different, and neither are right or wrong.
Q. Talk to me about the strengths of this year’s team.
This team truly is family. They love each other and O’Connell. They are willing to put in the time it takes to build something special. On the basketball court, it is just a matter of time, chemistry and maturity. The foundation is there, and they are actually a very exciting young group to watch.
Q. Also, the team’s weaknesses/concerns?
Size. We need some post players. Katie (Meckus) is our one and only true center. Other than that, I don’t have any other concerns.
Q. Who are our top players – and why are they so? What does each bring to the table?
Janiya Clemmons (pictured left): Her work ethic is unparalleled. Her jump shot is worth the price of admission to a game. Jasmine Taylor (pictured above): Good-sized and very tough guard. She has a well-rounded game. Committed already to Boston College. Coral Gillette and Maddie Cherry shoot the lights out. Both are sophomores and shoot the ball extremely well. Both also have a great feel for the game.
And the freshman Brie Perpignan (pictured right). She starts at the point or the two spot. As the season has progressed, so has she. She is quick, fast, has a great handle and is also very versatile. She is going to be very, very good.
Q. Any surprises in the early going, personnel-wise?
The freshman (Brie Perpignan). I knew she was good, but I wasn’t sure how a freshman would handle the point pressure in the WCAC. She struggled some at first, but not anymore.
Q. Highlights on the season so far (team or individual, or both)?
Both tournaments we played in. We played top-ranked teams in the country and beat them. The team played well. Katie Meckus is going to play D1 basketball after only playing competitively for two years. Jasmine Taylor’s commitment to Boston College. Janiya Clemmons in general. She has been here all three years and worked hard. She has every academic award at DJO, and her game on the court has grown tremendously. As a team, our daily talks after a game. This group has truly been enjoyable and family.
Q. Are you satisfied with where we are right now... and can we be better?
I am never satisfied. I think if you stop growing, you are wasting precious life. I absolutely think we can be better, but good things take time, hard work, and the right people involved. It will happen!
Q. What are our goals this year...realistically speaking? Who are the teams to beat, and where do we fit in that mix...Top 2, Top 3?
Our goal is to get into the top four teams of the WCAC and then go from there. We need to beat all the teams in the middle of the pack and plus one big one. The top teams are Paul VI, Good Counsel, McNamara and St. John’s. Honestly, if St. John’s were healthy, they are loaded with talent top to bottom. Without another big, I’m not sure we can beat the Top 3, but we have played well with all of them. It could happen in the tournament if we are shooting well, and I do think we will peak at that time.
Q. Anything else that you would like to add?
You didn’t think that I would have the patience. But I do! I want to get this program back to the time when you were coaching the girls’ team. For me, it is the building of something special. The maintaining has its qualities too, when everyone is reaching for you, but the building of things is where my passion lies. You must have several things built into your character to withstand the climb, and something inside yourself to say “stay the course.” A little luck and a few angels, too. This year’s team, from top to bottom, comes from the same mold. It would not be as rewarding for me, or them, if it were already done for us.
Lastly, I want to thank everyone at O’Connell for making me part of this community. I absolutely love it here, and it has helped me tremendously... continuing to grow as a person. It has also been more of a blessing for me than most would know.
This is Tommy Orndorff and that was The Week That Was.