There is a slogan on all gear worn by Crossroads girl’s basketball players this season.
“Life is a team game,” it says.
The message illustrates the thoughts of a coaching staff that, in the words of assistant Al Buck, “is changing the culture” of girls basketball at the school.
Not that Crossroads didn’t do well last season when Daniele Minton was the coach. The team reached the semi-finals of the CIF Division 5-A playoffs.
But when Minton didn’t return this season, a staff of head coach Kevin Cormier and assistants Buck and Ryan Weisenberg, all with impressive credentials, arrived and brought a mentality so different that former Roadrunner boys championship coach Daryl Roper observed:
“This school has never had anyone like you guys, including me.”
In short, the staff is teaching life’s lessons – dedication, sacrifice, teamwork – through basketball, even though very few Division 5 players ever receive college basketball scholarships.
“For the first time the girls have two-hour practices, sometimes even on Saturdays,” said Buck. “Crossroads players are used to being off during Christmas vacation, but we want to play in tournaments beginning next season, like many schools do. The girls didn’t have practice gear so we bought it and now they have three sets.”
Cormier formerly won championships with boys’ teams at Serra and Mayfair Highs, Buck won a girls championship at St. John Bosco, and Weisenberg coached at Mater Dei. In addition, all three have scouted for the LA Sparks and Houston Comets of the WNBA, and Buck is an 18-year employee of the Lakers in film work.
Buck, who has had cerebral palsy since birth, conducts practice in a scooter.
Weisenberg wasn’t present when Crossroads played Brentwood January 11 because he flew to Houston on short notice that day for a meeting with the Comets.
Once the trio began working together, they decided to stay together. They had six offers for this season but chose Crossroads because of the team’s potential – a CIF semi-finalist last season with a starting five comprised entirely of freshmen and sophomores.
“These girls aren’t being cheated. They’re being coached,” said Buck.
A fourth member of the coaching team is volunteer assistant Bridget Trumpet, a former all-conference player at St. Francis College who is an accountant in Westwood.
She works with the point guards and has done so well Cormier hopes she’ll continue with the staff in future years.
Megan Bear has been moved from point guard to shooting guard to take advantage of her scoring ability. Freshman Nadine Byers played the point in the recent game against Brentwood. Shannon McQueen played the point earlier in the season before fracturing a wrist and is now playing forward.
Center Christina Murray is the primary inside player and leading scorer at 20 points per game. A sharpshooting senior, Channer Miller, is the top reserve.
Crossroads has done well against teams in its own division and at times this season has been rated No. 1. Several of its losses have come against teams from larger divisions, including one to Brentwood on January 11.
Cormier feels he has found his niche in coaching.
“I started with the boys, and now that I’m coaching girls I doubt that I’ll go back,” he says. “There’s a lot of satisfaction at this level. It’s a joy to work with these girls and they want to learn.”
Cormier is an inspirational coach. When a time out is called he’s quickly on the court with a hand slap for everyone. And he shouts instructions with passion.
Cormier and Buck live 50 miles away, but both decided Crossroads was their best coaching opportunity this season. And whether or not they stay well into the future, they’ve brought a significant change to the way girls’ basketball is treated at the school.