When SkyView Academy girls basketball coach Mickey DeVries finished his first season, he knew he was in for a lot of work. And he knew he couldn't do it alone.
So he looked to a talented group of sophomores on his team and he threw a challenge their way. He challenged them to do the work that's not only necessary to make the team successful, but do the work and make it so that the others want to be a part of what's going on.
"They challenged each other to come in and work and strive to be something good," DeVries said. "They came in all the time in the summer. They were shooting, they were doing some skill work, we were playing game. And they took a huge leap last year. We went from four wins to 11 wins. We’re having success this year and the hard work is showing itself in the win column.”
At 11-2 overall and 5-1 in the Class 3A Metro League, the Hawks are still in the hunt for the league title. Lutheran - the only team to beat the Hawks this year - currently sit in first place. They're just one win shy of matching their win total from a year ago and with two wins, they'll triple what they did in 2016-17.
And this isn't a fluke. A year ago, it was Natalia Miller-Forrest who provided the bulk of the offense. She, Sydney Wyatt and Hannah Banko are all averaging over 10 points per game this season.
A Hawks team with more contributors has given opponents fits this season. They've already grabbed wins against Kent Denver and Faith Christian, two teams that beat SkyView last season. A big part of the success has been the development of more scoring options which has also made Miller-Forrest a better player.
“It just makes everything a whole lot easier during the course of the game," DeVries said. "Last year, Natalia was the only one that could really score. This year having Hannah be able to score and have game experience and Sydney being able to score and having game experience just really opens things up for Natalia.
"She scored at a decent clip last year, but I would say her efficiency is way better this year than it was last year just because she’s seeing less double teams, less box and ones, less of all those things. If other teams run that, Banko can score or Syd can score.”
Miller-Forrest and Wyatt are two of the sophomores that DeVries challenged a couple of years ago after the Hawks went 4-16.
As the girls have worked harder, the results have gotten better. And that's a fact that hasn't escaped the minds of the players or coaches. They didn't just talk about building a culture, DeVries watched as these girls established a standard and hope to see future SkyView teams live by that same standard.
"They have held each other accountable and they have held themselves to higher standard of getting in the gym five teams during the week in the offseason and getting shots up," DeVries said. "And that’s trickled down. Those two have been the main leaders of that and it trickles down to where Hannah is in here all the time and we have others. Veronica (Neujahr) and Sabrina (Rugg) and we have some other kids that have been in here all the time and it’s building on itself.”
For much of this season, the Hawks have received votes in the 3A rankings, showing that their play on the court has certainly gotten the attention of those around the state. Considering SkyView's steps of improvement, it's not a stretch to think that the Hawks could be in for a playoff run, a thought that felt more like a pipe dream just two seasons ago.
“I wouldn’t have believed it," DeVries said. "It’s been fantastic. My first year was real rough and we talked about building a culture. If you would’ve told me that Syd and Natalia had been where they are two years ago, I would’ve laughed at you. It’s unbelievable how much hard work they’ve put in and where they’ve gotten as a result of that hard work.”
It's an old school lesson that has yielded desired results today. It's working beyond the confines of practice. It's giving extra effort. The Hawks have established a culture of doing what is necessary to achieve the desired results.