AMBOY — In his 51 years of coaching across all levels, Amboy Girls Varsity Basketball Coach Mike McCracken finds himself in unfamiliar territory as he enters his 15 season with the Lady Clippers.
After a successful 2020 campaign finishing with a impressive 14-1 record, the only blemish coming on a tough one point loss to Eastland, McCracken and staff find themselves in an almost complete rebuilding mode after four of five senior starters graduated. Of the 15 members on the roster this year, eight are freshman, forcing McCracken back to the basics which sometimes can be a chore.
“We are teaching basic fundamental drills in practice everyday to bring the freshman up to speed like learning the 2-3 defense that we usually incorporate which can be a little frustrating for our more experienced players,” explained McCracken. “There are a lot of unknowns when you are starting underclassman. It probably won’t be an easy start to the season but I like our potential.”
One constant the last four years has been the play of the lone returning starter from last season 6’1 forward Olivia Dinges. Dinges, who was named to the Northwest Upstate Illini South All Conference Second team averaged just under 10 points a game, along with pulling down 8 rebounds and will be leaned on heavily to lead this young inexperienced squad. According to Dinges, she’s more than up to the challenge.
“I realize my leadership role right now,” said Dinges. “I’ve been stressing in practice what we need to work on to be better players and how important it is to play as a team.”
For at least the beginning of the season the Lady Clippers will feature starters, 6’0 junior forward Courtney Ortgiesen, the second best player on the team, 5’7 senior shooting guard Olivia Miller, and sophomore point guard Elly Jones, with the final spot still yet undetermined.
Assistant Coach Shauna Dinges, in her 14 season and also the mother of Olivia and daughter to McCracken feels that the atmosphere and tradition of the program can’t be measured.
“We have always had a really good team environment,” said Shauna Dinges. “It’s a new beginning which is exciting to see who steps up from this next generation of players to help us carry on our winning ways.”
The close knit feel of the group is understandable with the examples that are being shared with the three generations of family in the program. Shauna Dinges has had the rare opportunity to sit along side the bench with her father, as well as coach her daughters through the years with Olivia being the last of three.
“It’s been an incredible experience to learn from your mentor who is your father,” said Shauna Dinges. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
“It’s been a lot of fun the last four years playing for my grandpa and mom,” added Olivia. “It’s certainly unique and special.”
The Lady Clippers open play Nov. 17 at the Oregon High School Thanksgiving Tournament at 7:15 p.m. against Rockford Christian.