As far as Rob Heitmeyer is concerned, all he’s doing is continuing the tried and true established in previous years by Canton coaching legends Bob Blohm and Brian Samulski.
Heitmeyer — who Tuesday is starting his first season at the helm of Canton’s varsity girls basketball program with a game against Bloomfield Hills Marian — plans on continuing staples from past regimes such as tough defense, communication and a crop of tough December opponents to help the Chiefs gear up for the start of KLAA play in January.
“The program has always valued the opportunity to play outstanding programs early in the year,” Heitmeyer emphasized, “because it gives us a good read on the things we need to improve on with our team throughout the year.
“Wins and losses in December are not nearly as they are in March.”
Heitmeyer also is a coaching veteran at Plymouth-Canton Educational Park, with a number of years working on the Salem staff helmed by the late Fred Thomann.
Blohm is back
Yet he is almost beside himself to have Blohm sitting next to him on the Canton bench, after Blohm took a year off following Samulski’s 2014 decision to leave the Chiefs and take Salem’s athletic director position.
“Having coached basketball at both Salem and Canton, I have a great history to draw on,” Heitmeyer explained. “That history is enhanced with Hall of Fame coach Bob Blohm returning to the sidelines this year.
“There are not enough words to express what a difference Bob makes when he is in the gym. His mastery of the game and communication skills teaching the finer points of basketball to our student-athletes is second to none.
“Not only does the team benefit, but I get to share a clipboard with a local legend who has the center court at the gym named after him.”
Heitmeyer and Blohm will insist on each of the team’s 13 players following her prescribed role, perhaps doing well enough to take on additional court duties.
“I’m big on roles,” Heitmeyer noted. “Everyone on this team has a role, understands their role and will be able to play in that role as well as play into other roles.
“We look to push each other in practice and give ourselves a lot of options in games.”
If all goes according to plan, the Chiefs will “strive to perfect the motion offense, and then play our trademark man-to-man defense.”
Although the coaches will be key to Canton’s chances in the KLAA South Division, so will a trio of captains — senior point guard Natalie Winters, senior guard Madison Archibald and junior forward Erin Hult.
“She is one of the best defenders in the conference,” cited Heitmeyer about four-year varsity player Winters. “She has a great head on her shoulders and a fast set of feet to complement her decision-making skills.
“I’ve been particularly impressed with her patience when running our offense.”
Archibald is a shooting guard who “is fearless when it comes to seizing opportunity on both the defensive and offensive side of the ball. She defends very well, transitions well and can shoot the 3-ball.”
Hult, starting her third year on the varsity, is developing into an exceptional all-around player, Heitmeyer said.
“She can shoot from anywhere on the court and has really worked on perfecting that craft,” he went on. “She’s a mentally tough student-athlete and that … will be a difference maker for the team in close ballgames.”
Depth and athleticism extends to the rest of the roster. Junior wing Brianna Finn is a deadly outside shooter who “can make the big shot,” the coach said.
Opposing players soon will find out about junior forward Madison Wolfbauer, described by Heitmeyer as “a relentless defender who not only can cover space, but has a knack for being around the ball.”
Junior guard Monica Newton is a two-way threat, able to scrap for rebounds in traffic and also knock down outside jumpers.
Another junior, forward Marissa Templeton, “can finish at the rim and set screens as well as anyone on the team.”
Junior forward Shamya Butler also can work inside along with provide finesse. “She can recognize space as well as anyone and use that to get to the rim or hit a jump shot.”
Heitmeyer expects junior forwards Samantha Mattern and Raquel Church to strongly defend and rebound.
“(Mattern) is another player who always seems to be around the ball,” he said. “She is a great defender, can rebound with the best and get into our early transition offense quickly.
“Another great defender is Raquel Church. She is quick, agile and, most importantly, unselfish. She really makes everyone around her better.”
Junior guard Abby Heyde “is dynamic in all she does,” and Heitmeyer is looking for her to contribute at both ends of the floor.
Sophomore forward Ashley Criscenti and sophomore guard Alaina Heitmeyer round out the roster, but the coach said he won’t hesitate to use either in important spots.
“(Criscenti) is an all-around quality player who is an effective shooter from any range,” he stressed. “(Alaina Heitmeyer) changes speed on the dribble and has an ability to get to the rim.”
Add it all up and Rob Heitmeyer can’t wait for his first season as Canton’s head coach to unfold.
“I believe that not only defensively we’ll continue to do what this program has done for many years, but offensively this group can shoot about as well as any team I’ve seen at the Park,” he concluded. “Led by Erin Hult, (who has) really worked on her game over the summer, each one of them has the ability to make shots.”