695HOOPS WHERE IT'S ALWAYS ALL ABOUT THE GIRLS
Manchester Valley coach Heather Dewees is one of the brightest and most passionate coaches in the DMV. She also coaches with Central Maryland Attitude which is the best program in Carroll County. She is an accomplished high school and college player and if you have seen her teams play you know that she knows how to teach the game. She answered some questions for 695hoops.com.
Coach Dewees and her her daughter Mackenzie.
695: Where did you grow up?
Coach: I grew up in a small town called Rivesville outside of Fairmont, WV in Marion County. It is 12 miles from Morgantown, WV, the home of West Virginia University.
695: I played boys basketball from kindergarten through 8th grade. I did not play with girls until 8th grade AAU. I had never scored more than 10 points in a game and then went to high school and made the varsity girls team as a freshman. I scored 35 points my first game and became a D1 prospect overnight. Local colleges thought I was a senior. I averaged 24 points a game as a freshman. I went on to become the all time leading scorer in Marion County history for both boys and girls with 2,407 points. I averaged 29 points per game for my career and scored over 50 points 4 times. My career high was 54.
They did not keep other stats but I am sure I averaged double figures in rebounds. I led the state of West Virginia in scoring with 36 ponts a game my junior year. I was a 2 time First Team All-State AAA and was 1st Team All-County all 4 years. I was also an Street & Smith Honorable Mention All-American.
My senior year, I tore my ACL in a pre-season scrimmage. They didn’t fix the ligament back then so I played on it 3 weeks later. I still averaged 29 points a game with a bum knee. Everyone expected me to go to WVU but I wanted to go to a school where basketball was #1. Most big time colleges rescinded their offers because of my knee but Mt. St. Mary’s College (University now) heavily recruited me and said they didn’t care if I tore the other ACL. I early signed with them 2 months later.
At the Mount, we won over 80 games in the 4 years I was there. I spent my sophomore year as a redshirt getting my knee fixed but not before I was All-Newcomer team as a freshman and started almost every game. I was All-NEC Tournament as well where we placed 2nd. The next 3 years we won the NEC and I enjoyed 2 trips to the NCAA Div I Tourn with a great group of women in 1994 and 1995. (We are still the only 2 teams to go to the tourn in Div 1 for the Women’s Basketball Program).
All 3 years, I was 2nd in scoring and 1st in offensive rebs on our team. I was 2nd Team All-Conference my junior year and 1st team All-NEC my senior year. I scored over 1,000 career points in those 3 years as well and was named an Academic All-American for our region. I graduated 8th in my class at Mount Saint Mary’s.
My career ended prematurely when I tore my other ACL in pre-season of my 5th year at the Mount. I finished the semester, got my knee fixed and volunteered to coach at my old high school while it healed in WV. Because of my grades, I earned an Academic Teaching Fellowship to Wake Forest University [FREE] to obtain my Masters in Education. It was Tim Duncan’s senior year. I could not resist the opportunity to watch some great basketball.
695: How did you get started coaching and where have you coached?
Coach: I started coaching at my high school coach’s basketball camp in the summers. Coach Dennis Bombardiere basically let me run my own stations. I knew a lot about the game because I had played boys basketball and went to several basketball camps.
I worked basketball camps when I was in college at the Mount for Mason/Dixon and loved it. When I red-shirted my sophomore year at the Mount, my assistant [Candy Cage formerly the head coach at Loyola College and now AD at Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg] had a family emergency to attend to and my Coach, Bill Sheahan, asked me to sit beside him and “be his assistant”. It was the greatest couple weeks of the season. I learned so much in that short while about the game and began to appreciate it differently.
I have coached Varsity Girls’ Basketball at Fairmont Senior High WV, AAU for Northern WV, Western Tech High School in Catonsville, Westminster High School, Oldfields School in Northern Balt County, North Carroll High School, and now, Manchester Valley High School and Central MD Attitude AAU.
I have also coached all 3 of my children in soccer, basketball and baseball for North Carroll Rec Council [I played 8 years of boys’ baseball – we didn’t have softball – and would have played it in high school but I decided to focus on basketball]. I also run co-ed basketball camps at Manchester Valley High School and girls’ basketball camps for Catonsville Rec and Parks.
695: What type of challenges do you face at your high school?
Coach: We are a very small 1 A school and most solid athletes play 3 sports. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for our athletes to specifically focus on one sport or lift weights frequently. This is also a soccer and lacrosse community so if kids focus, it is usually on one of those sports. This makes basketball a sport that they usually only play in season. I have been successful in getting girls to play summer league and attend open gyms. We also have some younger players involved with AAU so the future looks bright.
695: What do you do to stay sharp and improve as a coach?
Coach: I love reading so anytime I can read about the game, I do. I try to keep up on all of the medical issues such as ACL prevention and concussions because the health of my athletes is very important to me. I don’t want them to end up like me with all kinds of aches and pains and two bad knees.
I am also a true X and O’s girl. I love creating plays and seeing if they work. I will create plays in the middle of the game for offense and defense. I enjoy watching the game and stealing plays and ideas from other coaches. I also develop a lot of my own drills and then make up names for them. It keeps me excited about the game especially because I miss playing competitively so much.
I have attended PGC as a guest coach, attended or directed over 100 basketball camps, and spend a lot of time talking with other coaches about what works and what doesn’t for them.
I also keep playing as much as I can. This gives me the player’s perspective that I feel is really important.
695: Who has had the biggest influence on your coaching style and philosophy?
Coach: My father will always be the biggest influence on me as a coach. He was always coaching me – never formally – but he spent many night rebounding for me and we had some long car rides home. I know he was tired from work but he would stay at the gym with me for hours. He went to every game and he called it like he saw it. He never sugar coated things and we would watch film every night after my games. That was unheard of 25 years ago.
Coach: Coach Bill Sheahan was my coach at the MOUNT and he was also a very big influence. He passed away a few years ago. It saddens me because I never really got to tell him how big of a part he played in my coaching style. I find myself repeating things that he said in practice or on the road to my athletes. I run my AAU team like a college team and abide by a lot of his rules. He ran a tight ship and we won on the road.
I also learned a lot of “what NOT to do” from various coaches and my own mistakes. I have witnessed a variety of coaches in my boys and girls basketball coaching and playing experience. I have learned that insulting players does not work and pre-judging players is even worse. I do NOT judge my players based on size, speed or gender. I believe anyone can be a player in this game if they learn it correctly
695: What are your biggest pet peeves when coaching?
Coach: My biggest pet peeve with players are when athletes that are blessed with talent just don’t work hard. They could contribute more to their team but selfishly choose to be lazy.
Another pet peeve of mine are coaches that lack integrity and put winning above everything else. Nothing irritates me more than when a coach tells his player to “hit another player or take them out”. That kind of behavior is unacceptable and unsportsmanlike. Every coach should respect the game first. I also believe that my players are more important than winning. I truly want them to leave their experience with me as better players, better people and better coaches so that they can pass the game on to their children and players effectively. I want to win but not at the expense of my athletes or my own integrity.
695: What do you think of the overall direction of girls basketball in DMV?
Coach: I see a real lack in fundamental discipline in the high school game and especially in AAU. There are several reasons for this. One is that girls play more sports here than they do in WV, PA, and Ohio. If you go West, Basketball is still #1 whereas LAX is #1 here.
Another reason is that kids just are NOT in the gym as much as they need to be. I used to shoot 500 shots a day 5-6 days a week. I would shoot before practice and after practice. I would shoot on my days off. Kids today think they can order gadgets off the internet that will make them better shooters, but in reality, they need to be in the gym with a ball in their hand. I used to shoot outside in the rain or anywhere I could find a hoop if my High School or Middle School gym was not available.
695: What do you think girls need to spend more time working on?
Coach: All players need to work on team concepts as well as individual concepts. Often players are good shooters or good ballhandlers but do not understand how to come off picks correctly, find passing lanes, or run a simple pick and roll. I am shocked at how many players do not play effective help-side, transition or fast break defense. There is an important relationship between posts and guards that has to be established on both offense and defense and that takes place with communication. I learned how to communicate in boys basketball and definitely at the MOUNT. It was essential in every play.
Finally, all players need to spend more time being good teammates. Too often kids and parents only think about themselves. Basketball is a team sport and the role of every player on the team is important. The more you ascend or descend any specific player, the more you tear apart the team. I want my players to play for each other and for the love of the game. I learned that at Mount St Mary’s where I was happy scoring 12 points a game and winning instead of scoring 50 points and being tripled teamed in West Virginia.
695: What else do you do besides coach?
Coach: I work at Manchester Valley High School full-time as the Permanent Substitute. I also play basketball twice a week as much as I can and in a couple leagues and with guys here at the high school. More importantly, I am a wife and a mother. I have 3 wonderful children and they are great athletes but they are also very smart and hard-working children. I am married to the most understanding man. He is a Maryland State Trooper and is running for Carroll County Sheriff. So I am also assisting with his campaign on top of working, coaching and caring for our family. Jim has sat in the stands for 17 years watching me coach, so helping him run his campaign for Sheriff is the least I can do.
695: Thanks for your time.
Coach: Thanks for the opportunity to tell my story.
Throwback photo of coach Dewees.
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