CALUMET CITY | Before the final test of the one-day tryouts for the T.F. North girls basketball team, Chris Pruit gathered all potential varsity players.
She spoke about representing the program in and out of the gym. She noted that it was paramount to portray an outstanding image.
Whatever the image might be this year in Calumet City, it no doubt will be a new one.
Despite having the majority of last season’s 20-8 team graduated or otherwise gone, and seven-year coach Tim Zasada coaching football at Reavis, enthusiasm and uncertainty are high on Pulaski Road as the program presses the reset button.
“It’s so exciting,” senior Devin Luster said. “We came out today to new drills, a new outlook, and everyone came ready to learn new things.”
New coach Pruitt, whose No. 33 jersey is one of just three retired for both genders at prep alma mater Simeon, where she played in the late 1970s and coached 10 seasons in the 1990s, has inspired the current group of Meteors.
A year ago she was trying to return to the high school hard-court sidelines after two seasons with her children at Roosevelt Middle School in Dolton. She went to the Marist Tournament and asked Zasada if he needed an assistant for this season. By spring, after Zasada’s January announcement of his new job, Pruitt was pursuing the top post in the program.
The Meteors open the season Nov. 17 at the four-day Marist Tournament.
Now a freshman physical education teacher at the school, Pruitt held a one-day tryout Monday, the first official day for IHSA girls basketball teams to practice. She will host her first true practice today with plenty of unproven players ready to glean the fundamentals from her and attempt to defend their unbeaten South Suburban Blue Conference title.
“She came in excited,” said Luster, a senior who started several games at shooting guard last season. “She’s happy about being here. The environment felt really good.
“It used to be, ‘Rah! Let’s go!’ Now it’s a different teaching environment.”
Only one assistant from Zasada’s tenure, Michael Webb, remains on the bench. The changes will be system-wide.
As a turnover went out of bounds during a 4-on-4 scrimmage, Pruitt said fundamentals are a focus, and several drills used Monday were from Pruitt’s college experience at Wisconsin. Mixing a new system with a bevy of new players will be the simultaneous challenges for Pruitt, who had very little sleep Sunday night but thrived on adrenaline Monday.
“(Zasada’s) shoes are hard to fill,” Pruitt said. “I know I’m good at getting them to the next level if they want to work. I don’t have ready-made stars. I’m looking for players who want to play year-round."
It doesn’t stop in March; it starts in March. You go March to March, not October to March.”
Luster and juniors Taisha Johnson and Chanel Howard are the top returners for North.
“She already talked to a lot of us about all of the things she’s going to teach us,” Luster said. “We’ve just got to continue to learn and work hard.”