With Birmingham Detroit Country Day girls basketball coach Frank Orlando closing in on a half-century of coaching, it really doesn’t matter how young his team is.
“It’s a great opportunity to play for someone with so much experience,” said junior center Tylar Bennett. “I think he has 11 state championships. He’s like a great-granddaddy.”
Orlando knows how to get his team ready to defend its 2015 title. The Yellowjackets are 17-1 this season and ranked No. 1 in Class B.
“We’re still young,” said Orlando on Monday. “We just have one senior, Arika Tolbert. To keep the team focused I think you just can’t look at the eventual place you want to be at. You have to look at the next game or the next practice. You have to be focused in the present. If you’re looking into the future, there are too many good teams. There are great coaches. A lot of good basketball is going on this year and we’re just proud to be part of that.
“I tell them they haven’t done anything. You can’t talk about last year. That was last year. This year you just try to create a new feeling about our team. Even though it’s a pretty similar ballclub.”
And Country Day’s destiny is to be a pretty similar ballclub next year whether the Yellowjackets win the title or not, thanks to Destiny Pitts.
The 6-foot junior is a full-time guard and strong candidate for Miss Basketball next season. She’s averaging 17 points and 6.8 rebounds per game despite being double-teamed by every defense Country Day faces.
Orlando’s eraser is the 6-4 Bennett, the most improved player on the team and a pest when it comes to opponent’s lay-ups.
“I can’t say we’re better than last year, but we’re improving,” said Bennett. “I can say we’re improving tremendously.”
Sophomores Kaela Webb and Maxine Moore are already veterans, and there are three freshmen in the mix: center/forward Kashyra Jackson, guard Jasmine Powell and forward Adrian Folks.
The Yellowjackets already own a victory over Class A power Southfield-Lathrup and Class C No. 1 Ypsilanti Arbor Prep, who fell prey to a 23-0 run last week after being up, 33-14.
“I didn’t even realize we were down 19 at one point,” said Pitts. “I kept telling the players just keep getting one more stop. We’d come down and get fouled in transition. I didn’t realize it turned into as many stops as it did.
“The challenge this year is the only people that can stop us is ourselves at this point. We know we’ve won one (title) and we know we can do it again. We also have to work hard every day at practice. You can’t be satisfied with a championship last year.”
Pitts is a major college talent. Marquette was visiting Monday afternoon. MSU and U-M have come calling.
“Destiny Pitts is a unique young lady,” said Orlando. “She’s a scorer, yet I don’t care what game it is, she’s going to do something to try and create a positive vibe for our team. Against Ypsi Prep, a fantastic team, I think she scored 13 points, but she had 14 rebounds. In last year’s state semifinals against Goodrich she had 28 points, but in the final against Haslett they were checking her and made sure she didn’t get her points, but she was the high rebounder in that game.”
Said Bennett, who averages 7.1 points per game: “We recognize what teams do to her in film study. We work on things in practice as far as what to do when she gets double-teamed.”
The Yellowjackets have played tough competition. In addition to Lathrup and Arbor Prep, they have played Breslin Center hopefuls Midland Dow and Saginaw Heritage.
“I just know everybody is out for us,” said Pitts. “When we step on the court we have to understand that and come out ready to play. Some games we haven’t stepped up and come out ready to play. We find ourselves behind. The great challenge down the road for the playoffs is we’re going to have to come out every single game. When you get to that one team, they’re not going to let you come back.”
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.