EDMOND — It would seem like a basketball players dream to play without a coach on the sideline.
But Piedmont’s McKenna Kirkpatrick and Maddie Sperle are already tired of the freedom. With former head coach Jamie Hill off to Tulsa Union and the search for her new replacement still ongoing, for the moment, Piedmont basketball is rudderless. A feeling neither player is comfortable with.
“It’s up to us until we can get a coach,” Kirkpatrick said.
The top returners for the Lady Wildcats heading into next season, Kirkpatrick and Sperle have helped lead Piedmont through its Edmond summer league slate with newly hired assistant coach Ryan Burcham serving as head coach for now.
“It’s kind of weird because we really don’t have a coach right now, so we’re out there kind of coaching ourselves,” Sperle, the team’s leading returning scorer and only returning starter, said. “It’s different, but we’re also learning and getting better.”
With four senior starters gone, including college-bound talents Bre Reid and Hayden Priddy, Kirkpatrick and Sperle not only have to lead their team through summer, but also are tasked with transforming from role players the last two seasons, to the ‘Cats go-to players this winter.
“It’s a different level, but I think we’re all ready for it,” Kirkpatrick said. “Sperle has had lots of great experience so she’s helping us out a lot.”
Kirkpatrick, mostly a spot-up shooter as a sophomore, will be tasked with handling the basketball and making more plays off the dribble next season. Sperle, meanwhile, a versatile offensive player, will likely be Piedmont’s top scoring option and draw more attention from defenses. That makes this offseason doubly important for each.
“We have to be in the gym, working separately, getting shots up,” Kirkpatrick said.
Each player said they were surprised and hurt when Hill, who they had built a strong relationship with in two seasons, decided to take the Union job. But they understood why Hill left and wish her luck in Tulsa.
“I was sad to see her leave because me and coach Hill had a really good relationship,” Sperle said. “But she had to do what was best for her.”
Kirkpatrick hopes the new coach has many of the same qualities than helped Hill endear herself to them.
“Coach Hill always made us hold our own and make sure we were doing our own thing,” she said. “She had high standards for us.”
For now, both are anxious to find out who their new coach will be and can’t wait for structure to return to the team.
“We’re out there doing our own thing,” Sperle said. “It’s nice knowing you have a coach to call plays for you.”
“I can’t wait,” Kirkpatrick added.