Perry Hall's Bassett meeting her goals as boys coach

First female to lead boys varsity team in Baltimore County has led Gators' turnaround after roller coaster start to season

February 08, 2011|By Glenn Graham, The Baltimore Sun

When Monique Bassett was in grade school near New Orleans, she would regularly scribble her personal goals on a sheet of notebook paper and tape them on her bedroom wall.

Early on, her goals were directed mostly toward academics -- straight A's, perfect attendance and honor roll. When she reached junior high and developed a passion for basketball, a more long-term goal was posted: becoming a basketball coach.

"I've always taken a lot of pride in the game," said Bassett, who played DivisionI ball at Bethune-Cookman. "Playing, I was a point guard, so I was pretty much groomed to be the coach on the floor. I enjoyed that responsibility and always knew I wanted to be a coach."

Bassett, who turned 25 last month, has reached her goal, albeit under rare circumstances. The physical education teacher was hired this season as an assistant coach for the Perry Hall boys basketball team.

When head coach Daryl Wade was dismissed with junior varsity coach Tim Daughton after a game Jan.5 against Patapsco in which both were ejected, Bassett was appointed to replace Wade. She now handles both teams with the help of assistant Jamal Wood.

Bassett became the first female head coach of a boys varsity basketball team in Baltimore County and the second in the area. Former Western standout Dana Johnson is in her ninth season as coach at Southside in Baltimore.

" I'm all of 5 feet 6 -- a little woman -- and most of my players are 6 feet-plus, so they tower over me," Bassett said. "So you kind of have to assert yourself in a way that they're going to know that you know what you're doing. I think the biggest thing for me was that I wanted them to see that I know this game, love this game and have their best interest in mind."

Battling a difficult early schedule with new players taking on more significant roles and a new coach in Wade, the Gators were 2-4 before Bassett took over. After a 24-point loss to Woodlawn the day after she took over, the Gators have won seven of their past eight -- including a 68-64 road victory over Woodlawn -- and are 9-6.

"The boys have responded very positively toward her during the time she has taken over as head coach," Perry Hall athletic director Kathy Graybeal said. "They respected her prior to being named the head coach, so that all kind of carried over to make for a smooth transition. They just have a lot of faith in her. I see that."

During practice two weeks ago, Bassett was working with the post players and demonstrated a move to senior forward Antoine Snyder. He has already put the lesson to use.

"It was a drop step and turnaround hook shot, and I used it against Woodlawn in the fourth quarter. After I scored and we had a timeout, she was like, 'I told you it would work.' She was right," Snyder said.

Ask the team's four seniors and they'll tell you Bassett's just their coach, nothing out of the ordinary. She wants it that way.

"It's nothing really different. We just listen and do whatever she says," senior forward Ihinosen Dibua said. "She's been playing the game for a long time and has always had our respect. Her jump shot is better than mine."

Bassett is quick to give credit to Wade. She kept the same system he ran, adding a few wrinkles of her own. She said the biggest adjustment has come during games.

As an assistant, she kept statistics and talked with players as they came to the bench. Now, she has to make quick decisions, shuffle players in and work the referees. Her courtside demeanor is one of poise -- always standing -- with positive and calm reinforcement of her players.

In a win over Kenwood, the team rallied from 13 points down in the second half. Against Dulaney, the Gators squandered an 18-point lead in the second half but won.

"Derek Taylor, our junior guard and top scorer, made a dumb foul and we went down by three," Bassett said. "I think he was expecting me to yell at him and sit him. But I didn't. I just pointed to him and pointed to my head and said, 'Calm down.' I just let him fight through it, and he went on a 3-point shooting spree and finished with 25points. I've learned that sometimes not saying a word does me more wonders than me yelling my head off."

Dibua has seen a difference.

"On the sideline her attitude is relaxed, and I think that has transferred over to the team a bit because when we go down, we don't panic. She's just chilled, laid-back," he said.

Bassett still posts her goals on the wall from time to time. One of the most recent was to beat Woodlawn, something the senior class had never done.

After watching the first loss to Woodlawn seven or eight times, she went into the second meeting against the Warriors with a different game plan. Woodlawn's top guard burned the Gators with 25 points in the first game -- including four 3-pointers -- so Bassett went to a box-and-one zone defense and shuffled a number of players to guard him the second time.

"She did a good job," Woodlawn coach Eric Lee said. "She made some good decisions during the game -- substitutions and some adjustments. I think the kids believe in her more now and understand what she's trying to do."

With the satisfying win, Bassett reached another goal.

glenn.graham@baltsun.com

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