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New coach keeping Willingboro girls on the run

With a smile, Marchelle Coleman said her Willingboro girls' basketball players were "forewarned."

With a smile, Marchelle Coleman said her Willingboro girls' basketball players were "forewarned."

Before she ever ran a practice with her new team, in a nutshell, Coleman told her players to be ready to run.

If the Chimeras' recent scrimmage with Cherokee is any indication, the team is having no trouble adapting to their new coach's style.

"We're definitely doing a whole lot more running," junior Micahya Owens said of the Chimeras' practice regimen under Coleman.

The same could be said for Willingboro's Monday scrimmage, in which its starters were running different full-court traps and scoring in transition nearly the entire time they were on the court.

Cherokee, a young team with five new starters, simply couldn't keep up. But that's no indictment on the Chiefs.

Willingboro might be the fastest and deepest team in South Jersey. Now that the Chimeras look as if they also might be the fittest, it's hard to imagine any team keeping up with them.

"I'm a very energetic type of coach," said Coleman, a 1991 Willingboro graduate who spent the last four years as head coach of Camden County College. "And I want to bring that energy to these girls."

Coleman knew the talent she was inheriting when she took over for longtime coach Guy Fowler this summer.

The Chimeras return all five starters, including Owens, a forward who netted her 1,000th point as a sophomore, and guard Kara Cezar, who averaged almost 15 points last season as a freshman.

More than that, Willingboro returns two key contributors in junior guards Aliyah Saud-Lewis and Imani Stepney, who missed last season with injuries.

Finally, Willingboro will benefit from the return of guard Nola Henry, who played for Willingboro her freshman year before transferring to Trenton Catholic for her sophomore and junior years. Henry, a University of Massachusetts recruit, transfers back to Willingboro after starting at point guard for a TCA team that won the Tournament of Champions last season.

Right now, one of Coleman's biggest concerns might be dividing minutes among so much talent. She said she was pleasantly surprised with how her players handled the coaching transition.

"They are very focused," Coleman said. "My practices are a little bit different from what they are accustomed to. But they are working hard through these practices and they want to do well."

The players said they welcomed Coleman's system with open arms.

"You're always going to be anxious to see what your new coach is going to be like," Cezar said. "But she's done a great job. She pushes us very hard, but I think that's what most of us need."

Cezar's point that the team needs to be pushed is perhaps the biggest indicator that the Chimeras are poised for success this season. Willingboro players readily admit that, at times late last season, they lacked the drive necessary to succeed down the stretch.

It's a lesson many young players learn, and one Willingboro is glad it did.

The Chimeras say they want nothing more than to play in the state tournament this year - and they don't care how much running they have to do to get there.

"Nobody likes running a lot in practice," Owens said. "But everybody agrees that we have to do it.

"We know it helps us out on the court - it already has."