The “new” head coach of the Lambton College Women’s basketball team is a familiar face. In fact, DaveElsley isn’t a newcomer at all.
After taking over the Lady Lions at mid-point last season he coached the team to its first-ever berth in the provincial finals.
But now, his status has changed from “interim head coach” to simply “head coach.”
The women lost only two games at the OCAA championship tournament, both hard-fought contests in which Lambton led at times. It represented a giant step forward for the women’s program.
Before last season, Lambton’s men’s basketball team had garnered most of the spotlight – and with good reason.
“They are one of the best teams in the province. They are nationally-recognized,” said Elsley.
“James (Grant) has done such a great job with that team,” added Elsley, who was one of Grant’s assistant coaches before taking the interim job with the women’s team.
Elsley, a long-time high school football and basketball coach at St. Patrick’s, will narrow his focus this season to only the Lambton women’s hoops team.
“It’ll be different,” he admits. “It’ll be the first year in a long time that I haven’t coached football.
“But this is a time consuming job and if I really want to make an effort at this, I need to give it my full attention.”
Elsley acknowledged the team has lost a lot of scoring and might have some growing pains. Top players who graduated include Riley Williams, Melissa Ellis and Yasmine Taylor.
“We will have Christine Fleischer back and we’re hoping that some of the younger girls will step up,” he said.
Among the newcomers with potential to help right away are Tiana Marshall, sister of men’s team star Jason Marshall, and Morgan Campbell, sister of returning women’s team player Madisyn Campbell.
Lambton is one of the smallest colleges competing on the OCAA circuit and that can bring recruiting challenges. But Elsley said they try to use that to advantage by stressing the “family atmosphere” and the fact you won’t get lost in the shuffle at Lambton – “everyone knows who you are.”
Lambton’s basketball program will also soon have a state-of-the-art facility to attract would-be recruits. The teams will go from playing in one of the OCAA’s smallest gymnasiums to a facility that is “bigger than most,” said Elsley.
The new sports centre is expected to open in the fall of 2017.
The Lions basketball season will get underway with an exhibition game at Georgian in mid-October, with the regular season commencing at the end of that month.