Dowagiac’s Smith making big strides

Published 8:47 am Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When second-year Dowagiac coach Floyd Foston starting looking at the team he inherited last season, he saw potential in sophomore center Ciera Smith.

Foston felt if he could get her playing up to that potential, the Chieftains would have a chance to begin to turnaround the program.

The building process began last season, but it was a slow process. Over the summer, he continued to work with Smith and the rest of the Dowagiac girls basketball team in hopes of erasing the memory of the 0-21 season.

The Chieftains snapped their 24-game losing streak, which dated back to the 2011-12 season.

The victory over Berrien Springs in the Chieftains’ hope opener Friday night was led by Smith, who scored 17 points and helped Dowagiac hold a commanding 44-22 advantage in rebounding.

“All of us worked all summer to get to the place where we are now,” she said. “We were tired of losing. We finally decided we were going to buckle down and go for the win.”

“When I came here, I saw Ciera and I knew she could be a good player,” Foston said. “She just had bad habits, like getting a rebound and bending down or she wouldn’t pivot. That was the first thing I started working on with her. We started rebounding drills to learn how to come down with two hands, chinning the rebound, pivoting and finding the outlet pass.

“She took it all in. She didn’t have post moves, so we started working on those. She learned it, but she was always in a hurry to make the move and shoot it at the same time. I told her she had to break it down. She had to drop step, pivot, stop, plant and go up strong. She learned that and is getting better at it.

“She plays hard, she gets up and down the floor well and she is one of the leaders on the team.”

Smith said that she and her teammates put in a lot of hard work during the offseason to make sure that last year didn’t repeat itself.

Foston said he has asked a lot of Smith and so far she has done everything he has asked of her.

“He has asked a lot,” Smith said, “from working on my defense to working on my post moves. Without that, I wouldn’t be the player I am today.”

Smith and the Chieftains are currently 1-1 on the season and face a tough challenge when they host Niles tonight at 7:15.

The Vikings were also 0-21 last season, but have opened the 2013-14 season with a pair of victories.