It’s a season of renewal and transition for Turlock High’s girls basketball team. After a late season slide in 2011 that saw the Lady Bulldogs lose five of their last six games, Turlock enlisted the help of first year head coach Michelle Bush to bring the team back to basics.
In her first role as a high school basketball coach, the former Division I and international women’s basketball player has been stressing the importance of teamwork to her girls who have dubbed her ‘Old School.’
“I haven’t stopped loving or living the game, I was just a busy mom but I found that this was something I really wanted to do,” Bush said. “I hope that the love for the game that I have translates to these young ladies.”
Gone is last season’s leading scorer Lindy Avila, but with a new offensive scheme centered around maximum involvement Turlock should be fine. Seniors Aubrey Glidden and Cierra Peace will help Turlock’s cause this season and will be aided by fellow returners Kayli Perry and Cayla Donahue.
“Our main objective is to make sure there are not just strong individuals but that we’re a team,” Bush said. “We want them to never know who they’ll have to shut down because it could be in anybody’s hands.”
“That’s the emphasis this year, that not any individual is greater than the team,” she added.
In addition to her extensive experience as a player, Bush’s connection with her new team has been complemented by her staff, primarily varsity assistant Ryan Clay. Clay, a former Pitman High standout on the court, provides a youthful counterweight to Bush’s old school tendencies. Bush’s reliability has also been helped by her son, Turlock senior and basketball standout Austin Bush, who provides much needed bridge of familiarity for the new coach.
“Our staff works well together as a team and I think that’s translating to the girls,” Bush said.
So far her team’s willingness to learn has impressed Bush but limited height and a tendency to pass rather than shoot has Turlock’s coach pressing for aggression on the court.
“They’re a very smart group of ladies with good basketball knowledge and foundational skills,” Bush said. “When you don’t have height you have to look for a different way of doing things.”
With Tuesday’s foundation game against Hilmar High and a Los Banos Tournament that begins Thursday, the Bulldogs have ample opportunities to work on their faults before the Central California Conference season begins. But for Bush, it’s not just about winning and losing, it’s about constant improvement on and off the court and a refusal to be labeled as a team that can’t.
“It’s a transition year but we don’t want to be known as a transition team,” Bush said. “For me, for the girls, for the program, for the future, it will be about team building. This is not just about basketball, this is about learning about life. I know it’s cliché but it’s about being successful on the court and transitioning that to success in life."
Turlock faces off against Modesto Christian High at 6 pm. Thursday In Los Banos.