New Leechburg girls basketball coach Carter preaches that ‘little victories equal big wins’
By: Doug Gulasy
Thursday, August 9, 2018 | 11:02 PM
Andre Carter can dribble with his left hand, but he never developed the same confidence as using his right.
He could get around that in his playing days at Valley by using his quickness to beat defenders to the right, but it caused issues when opponents would trap.
“That’s one of the things that I never want another kid to go through,” said Carter, hired Wednesday night as Leechburg’s new girls basketball coach. “I don’t want them to be my age and miss that opportunity.”
The 46-year-old Carter, who lives in Penn Hills, considers development one of his greatest strengths as a coach. He ran a summer program for skill development in New Kensington the past four years. And he hopes to bring that growth mindset to a Leechburg program losing the most successful senior class in school history.
“That’s what I stress in practice now … whatever (a player’s) weakness is, I really emphasize doing it now,” Carter said. “I’ve done some open gyms already at Leechburg, and a lot of the girls, I think that they were in the same boat I was in, where no one was really telling them to make the mistake. It’s good to make mistakes. The more mistakes you make, it’ll get easier and easier.”
Leechburg’s rise over the past four years has been well-documented. A just-graduated senior class of Hannah Berry, Cameron Davies, Makenzie Fello, Daesha Knight, Mikayla Lovelace and Brittany Robilio turned a downtrodden program into one that made three consecutive WPIAL playoff appearances, two straight PIAA tournament appearances and picked up the first three postseason victories in school history.
Now, those record-setting seniors are gone: Lovelace scored more than 2,000 career points, graduating as the school’s all-time leading scorer, while Davies set the all-time 3-point mark. So, too, is coach Joel Ceraso, who took over the girls basketball coaching position at Burrell earlier this summer, and his assistants.
That leaves Leechburg with precious little experience as it looks to continue its newfound tradition, but Carter isn’t shying away from the challenge. He said he already worked with several of his new players over the past week or so in open gyms.
“I’m proud of the girls I’ve seen so far because they’re trying,” he said. “That’s the main goals that I want to get them to. The more that they try, even if this first year is a struggle, I know they’re going to be better by the end of the year.
“One of the things I like to say is little victories equal big wins, so my main focus this year is honestly going to be the fundamentals of being the best defensive team we can be. I want to be able to box out better than any team we come up against. I want to be able to take more charges than any team we come up against. And I want to be able to cause more turnovers.”
That hearkens back to the type of player Carter was for Tom Myers at Valley: an off-the-bench defensive dynamo.
“If we go old-school and bring it back to defense, I think their confidence will be a lot better,” he said.
Basketball actually wasn’t Carter’s No. 1 sport in high school: He preferred football, where he played running back and defensive back, but he joined the Vikings’ basketball team midway through his senior season, when soon-to-be-legendary Tom Pipkins was a freshman.
Carter got the basketball hook when his son Tre took up the sport; he coached Tre in AAU beginning in fifth grade and continuing through high school. He coached ArKen Youth Football. This past year he had his first school coaching job, with the Valley seventh-grade boys team, and he also was a volunteer for the Vikings’ varsity boys team.
The Leechburg position represents a “clean slate” for Carter because he can mold almost an entirely new group of players, he said, and he’s already seen an increase in players at the three open gyms he held at Leechburg as some of his fellow Blue Devils coaches and some of the boosters spread the word.
“I never witnessed it, and I never would have believed how welcoming everyone has been,” he said. “Everyone I’ve talked to, whether it was Corey Smith from the boys team, he reached out to me and said welcome aboard and congratulations. The volleyball team, they said congratulations and spread the word. And then the boosters. Everyone I’ve talked to has been so welcoming, and sort of like a family. That’s been exciting, too.”
Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at email@example.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.