There is a lot to like about this year’s version of the Garden City girls basketball team.
“This is probably the most-athletic team I’ve coached here,” said Cougars head coach Michele Tyree. “Most of the girls are two- or three-sport athletes.
“It’s the biggest team I’ve had in a while, too — size-wise and in the number of players. We have some versatile players who we can move around.”
The Cougars travel as far as their five returning contributors take them. Leading the cast of returners is four-year varsity player Lindsey Michalak, who led the team in scoring and rebounding as a junior.
“Lindsey will start the season at the point, but she can play the other guard spot, too,” said Tyree. “She can take the ball to the basket and she has a good outside shot as well. Her experience will help us.”
The role of 5-foot-10 senior post player Cassie Leleniewski is expected to expand this season, given that she is the Cougars’ most-experienced post player.
“She ran cross country this year, so she’s in good shape,” Tyree noted. “She has a nice touch on her shot.”
Garden City’s scrappy defense will be spearheaded by senior Mikaela Smolar, a 5-4 high-energy guard.
“Mikaela is very quick, very athletic,” Tyree said. “I expect her to play a big role defensively.”
Senior sharp-shooter Amber Swisher is the Cougars’ most-consistent threat beyond the three-point threat.
“Amber has been working very hard on the defensive end, so she’s becoming a more complete player,” Tyree said of the three-year varsity performer.
The last, but not least, returner is junior Aleea Montgomery, who can attack the rim or square up for a jumper, depending on what the defense gives her.
“Aleea was our second- or third-leading rebounder last year,” Tyree said. “She made big strides toward the end of last season.”
The Cougars’ first-year players are loaded with potential. Junior Brittany Radtke is a three-sport athlete who will provide consistency at the guard position, Tyree said.
“Brittany is a very steady player who I have high expectations for,” she said.
Junior Kayley Hewer is primarily a perimeter player who knows how to get to the rim and finish.
Junior Alicia Ascencio will give Garden City a “strong presence inside,” Tyree emphasized. Juniors Alex Leleniewski (the younger sister of Cassie) and Tatum Spears are both talented players who Tyree is confident will take advantage of their opportunities to shine this season.
Other key components include seniors Taneja Horne and Samantha Schwesing, both of whom played for the Cougars’ JV team in 10th grade before sitting out last season.