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Taking the next step

Expectations high for first senior class coached exclusively by Dickson.

Huddled+up+%E2%80%94+The+Lady+Lions+circle+up+for+a+breakdown+before+the+opening+tip+of+their+season+against+Topeka+High+on+Dec.+2.
Huddled up — The Lady Lions circle up for a breakdown before the opening tip of their season against Topeka High on Dec. 2.

Huddled up — The Lady Lions circle up for a breakdown before the opening tip of their season against Topeka High on Dec. 2.

Hannah Gaines

Hannah Gaines

Huddled up — The Lady Lions circle up for a breakdown before the opening tip of their season against Topeka High on Dec. 2.

By Jackson Hoy, Staff Writer

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Girls basketball coach Jeff Dickson enters his fourth season coaching the Lady Lions with high expectations.
With four starters and most of last season’s rotation returning, the buzz around the girls basketball team is as high as it has been in years.

This year’s senior class will be the first group of girls to have spent their entire high school career under Coach Dickson, and they believe that his tutelage has been the key to the program’s turnaround.

“[H]e’s just always been there for me since freshman year,” senior guard Tyrin Cosey said of Dickson.

Since arriving at LHS in May of 2014, Dickson has installed a team culture built around “hard work, loyalty, family and heart and intensity and being positive in the face of adversity,” according to Dickson.

“We have high expectations for the students in our program both in the classroom and on the court,” he said. “The players hold themselves accountable. Or they aren’t in our program.”

Dickson’s high standards for his players have quickly brought success to the program. In the five years prior to his hiring, the girls basketball team won just 29 games. In Dickson’s three years as head coach, the Lady Lions have racked up 37 wins and came away with a sub-state championship last year.

Junior forward Chisom Ajekwu, named Third Team All-Sunflower League for her play last year, has enjoyed learning from Dickson.
“Playing with Dickson, for me, he’s done so much for me as a player. I stop thinking of myself just as a basketball player … and thought about who I am to the team, what I can do, what I should do for the team, my responsibilities, and also being a student-athlete,” she said.
Ajekwu noted that Dickson does not rely on a certain gimmick or play style for success, but rather on the mentality of his players.

“[H]is coaching system is more of a mentality thing,” she said. “He always has us make sure we face through adversity. We just tell ourselves that being tired is just mental, pain is just temporary, everything’s just mental.”

Senior forward E’Lease Stafford was named Co-Sunflower League Player of the Year last year after spending her offseason recovering from a torn ACL suffered near the end of her sophomore season, and she credits her growth as a player to Dickson’s encouragement.
“[W]inners train and losers complain. Coming in at 6 in the morning for Saturday practices for almost four hours has taught me a lot,” Stafford said. “If you have dedication, you can go far.”

Dickson has strongly emphasized close relationships between his players and it has led to a resilient and positive team culture.
“We always do a lot of team bonding and stuff, and he’s always coming up with new ideas for us to get along,” Cosey said.
When asked what word summed up the Lady Lions the best, Dickson had an easy response: “Family”.

Coming off an 18-5 record and a loss in the 6A state quarterfinals, the Lady Lions have high hopes for this season. Dickson has not let the hype surrounding the program distract him.

“Our goals are the same every year and have been since day one: to work harder than everyone else around us. Make the we greater than the me. Have the highest GPA in the state. Build a strong work ethic and foundation for our students to learn life lessons and come together as a stronger and special family,” he said.

The Lady Lions opened their season at Topeka High on Dec. 1, and they hope to see their team chemistry continue to produce positive results.

“This year I think we’re going to be really good. We all have good chemistry with each other, and … we have a really good group of girls,” Ajekwu said.

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Taking the next step