Croll takes lessons in new stage of his basketball career | local sports

Coaching basketball has always been something Steph Croll has wanted to do.

The 2017 Slippery Rock High School graduate will get her first chance at head coaching after being hired by her alma mater to be its next women’s basketball coach last week.

“(Coaching) was always something on my mind growing up and going to school,” said the 23-year-old Slippery Rock resident. “I love basketball and always wanted to be around the game.

“I ended up tearing my knee a couple of times, so I didn’t get a chance to play in college. I stayed on the team as a student coach. It allowed me to get involved in the coaching aspect and shape myself as a coach.

Croll – a graduate of Grove City College in 2021 – will replace Amber Osborn, who stepped down at the end of the 2021-22 season.

Osborn guided the Rockets to 106 wins and six regional titles after taking over from John Tabisz ahead of the 2016-17 season.

“I’m really excited to have this opportunity,” Croll said. “I think it’s a great chance for me to take on this role and teach the girls what I know, while helping the program grow.”

The opportunity to return to his old stomping ground was something Croll could not pass up.

“I’m thrilled to be back in our community,” Croll said. “Slippery Rock is a great community where everyone supports everyone. I want to be able to give back to the Slippery Rock community that did so much for me while I was still in school.

Just five years out of his high school years, Croll knows intimately the program and the successes he has achieved under Osborn and Tabisz over the past two decades – including six consecutive regional championships, six consecutive appearances in the championship game of the district 10 and the 2018 D10 Title under Osborn.

“There’s definitely an expectation to win,” Croll said. “At Slippery Rock we hold ourselves to a very high standard and I want to continue to work towards that. The goal will always be to be the number one team in any situation.

After her successful school career, Croll’s college career never got off the ground with multiple knee injuries that cut short her days as a Wolverine student-athlete.

While she was sidelined, Croll gained valuable coaching experience under the tutelage of veteran coach Chelle Fuss.

“Coach Fuss did a really good job helping me out,” Croll said. “She let me do some exercises in training. She let me help with the movie and let me help with the plays in the games, so I was always out there trying to help out with the girls as much as I could.

In addition to Fuss and Osborn, Croll picked up the basketball philosophies of various coaches — in the Slippery Rock High School and Grove City College programs as well as the AAU Tour — during his career on the court.

“I’ve had a lot of great coaches throughout my basketball journey to help me get to where I am today,” Croll said. “A great one that comes to mind is my former AAU coach (and current head coach of the North Hills girls basketball) Jim Dudas. He was my biggest mentor when it came to basketball He showed me a lot and taught me so much that I will be using him as my women’s basketball coach at Slippery Rock. We are still in touch and I’m sure he will continue to help me if I need him.

“The two Rhoads coaches (Posey and Melinda) too. I played for both of them and they are both great role models for me. They both taught me a lot about basketball at such a young age, not just where to go and what to do, but with my skills and knowledge. Everyone in high school and college too. I learned so much from all of them and they all helped shape who I am.

With these ideas and philosophies in mind, Croll plans to institute an aggressive defensive base in his teams.

“Hopefully we can be an aggressive defensive team, so we can create a lot of turnovers that can lead to quick breaking opportunities,” she said. “That’s how we’ll try to manage our attack.”

With the late start, Croll knows she and her returning players are behind in their preparations for the 2022-23 season.

“(Slippery Roch boys coach) AJ Motta ran opening gyms and scrums and included some of my girls in them,” she said. “I’ll get the ball rolling as soon as possible. We’re going to get in the gym, do some good training and I think we’ll be ready to go by the time the season rolls around.

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