Mickey McDaniel isn’t one for vacations, at least not if they don’t involve basketball.

Come summertime, the Spring-Ford girls’ basketball coach isn’t spending his time at far-flung destinations thousands of miles away. McDaniel and his wife, Becky, instead opt to follow his players around the country, watching their AAU teams anywhere from Chicago to Louisville to the Jersey Shore.

It’s not a chore for McDaniel. It’s a passion, and it’s why his Rams are once again a serious contender for both a Class 6A
District 1 and state title as their postseason gets underway on Wednesday with a game against visiting Owen J. Roberts.

“The girls know they are important to me,” McDaniel said last week. “But also, what they’re doing is important to me. I can watch them and then take in how they’re improving and how they’re getting better.”

That growth has been critical for Spring-Ford in the last three seasons. After missing out on the state playoffs in the 2016-17 season, the Rams have gone on to win three consecutive Pioneer Athletic Conference titles, earning a top-four seed in the District 1 Class 6A playoffs each year.

McDaniel credits a youth system that has continually fed his varsity program as it has only affirmed itself as the team everyone in the PAC is chasing.

“We’ve had a foundation set here for a number of years,” McDaniel said. “Each class that comes through buys into that, and they’ve wrapped themselves around that tradition. … Every one of them is driven and have a passion to succeed and live up to any expectations that there may be in our program.”

Leading the way for this year’s group is Lucy Olsen, a junior with Division I offers from Villanova, Bucknell, Drexel, La Salle and Liberty.

Olsen, who scored 14 points in the Rams’ 47-39 PAC championship game win last Wednesday against Methacton, is already a member of the 1,000-point club and has established herself as a centerpiece of Spring-Ford’s offense.

McDaniel points to Olsen’s basketball IQ as her biggest strength but explained that the junior’s commitment to the game is what first caught his eye when he watched Olsen during her middle-school days.

 Spring-Ford's Lucy Olsen (right) battles Cardinal O'Hara's Sydni Scott for the ball in a district playoff game last season.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Spring-Ford's Lucy Olsen (right) battles Cardinal O'Hara's Sydni Scott for the ball in a district playoff game last season.

“You could see that she had special skills,” McDaniel said. “But the key to her is her work ethic. She loves basketball, and she watches a ton on TV.”

And if Spring-Ford is going to get over that hump in this next month — with a state title in its sights — the Rams will need Olsen to be at the top of her game.

“They know that they all have to get better each day and make their teammates better” McDaniel said. “It’s a very simplistic formula, but we hope things are there in the end.”