John Rossi is Franklin High School’s new girls basketball coach this season, and he’s found himself in a quality situation.
The Wildcats are coming off a 15-9 campaign and return most of their team, including 6-foot-1 junior guard Layne Ferrell, the Southwestern Buckeye League’s leading scorer last year.
“We’ve got a little bit of talent,” Rossi said. “The transition has been pretty good, and the kids have been really working hard. There’s three components I’ve been talking to them about — being coachable, having a great attitude and being a great teammate.
“Leah (Sams) left a pretty good foundation here. We’re just trying to change the culture a little bit. I think the kids are having fun. We haven’t been easy on them, but I think that’s the only way you’re going to get better.”
The Wildcats figure to be in the SWBL Southwestern Division championship chase with defending champion Bellbrook, Monroe and Valley View.
GIRLS BASKETBALL SEASON PREVIEWS
Franklin has also dropped down to Division II this season, though that sectional could prove to be even more difficult than the competition it saw in D-I.
“I’m old school,” Rossi said. “We’d like to win a league championship, win a district championship and continue to get better every single day. We want to compete at a high level, and it’s going to be tough. Our league and our district are very good.”
Ferrell has reached double digits in scoring in 25 straight games. She averaged 20 points, eight rebounds, 4.6 blocks, 2.5 assists and 2.3 steals per contest as a sophomore.
She’s got the height to be an inside player, but Ferrell — who shot 88 percent from the foul line as a sophomore — will primarily be a guard and may run the point at times.
“She’s going to have the basketball in her hands at the 1 or the 2,” Rossi said. “I think that makes us a better team, and I think she’s a better player with that. There’s going to be days when we ask her to get on the block and stay there, but for the most part, she’ll have the ball in her hands and make plays for us.
“She’s so unselfish. I’m not sure Layne’s going to score 20 a game this year, but it wouldn’t surprise me if her assist average goes up to eight or nine a game.”
Jordan Rogers, a 5-9 freshman and high-level AAU player, has stepped in and should be a starter for the Wildcats at point guard.
“Jordan’s got a lot of savvy,” Rossi said. “She’s opened some eyes right away. She’s not afraid to take big shots.”
Juniors Emma Bicknell (5-3) and Skyler Weir (5-6) are returning guards, sophomores Kaylee Harris (5-9) and Brooke Stover (5-10) are back as forwards, and junior Emily Newton (5-11) is an experienced post.
“Harris is the hardest-working kid we have in our program right now,” Rossi said.
A trio of 5-4 sophomore guards — Madison Earles, Kristin Earles and Karsen Quillen — could make an impact as well. Senior center Olivia Kelly (5-8), senior guard Caroline Elam (5-4) and senior guard Haley Adams (5-7) are also in the mix.
“We feel like we’re going to be able to come out and score the basketball,” Rossi said. “I don’t think we’re real physical. We’ve showed some deceptive quickness, and we think we’ve got a little bit of length.
“We haven’t gone over a lot of full-court pressing. Our zone defense and our man-to-man defense need a lot of work. If we can rebound the basketball, we feel like we can transition. But we haven’t rebounded it real well in the preseason.”
The Wildcats only have 17 players in the program, “but it’s 17 quality kids,” Rossi said.
Tim Crowe, Matt Abshear, Karin Back and Ken Haney are coaching with Rossi. Franklin will open the season at Reynoldsburg on Nov. 25, facing Thornville Sheridan at 10:30 a.m. in the Gary West Memorial Tipoff Classic.