Nielsen to lead Huskies girls basketball as permanent head coachAug 03, 2022 07:50PM ● By Julie Slama
By Julie Slama | [email protected]m
Shortly before school was dismissed for summer, Hillcrest High girls interim basketball coach Alyssa Nielsen accepted the permanent head coach position.
Not wasting any time, she began holding open gyms for her returning players and those incoming and transfer students. Those open gyms continued this summer and will be held into the fall.
“We’re getting in a lot of ball handling and just really just getting a lot of shots up and getting their form back down,” Nielsen said. “We've had a pretty good show out for the open gyms. Starting out preseason, I'm hoping to get the mindset in, when you come in, you work hard, and you earn what you get. I want to make sure everybody is putting in their full 100% every single day and let them see the changes that that make in themselves. I think when they work hard and put in everything that they have, they'll really end up seeing the results by the time region comes around. We’ll be able to compete with every team in the region. I think my main thing is just getting them to believe that they can do it. They're very capable of doing it if they put in the work.”
Before taking over mid-year last season when the former coach resigned, Nielsen coached the school’s freshman-sophomore team; many of those girls who were on that team now will play as juniors and seniors this year.
Nielsen already is making plans with returning assistant coach Laura Roth and new coaches Cassie Sylvester and Nikki Orreli.
“Defense is going to be huge this year because the more we can keep them off the board, the better chance we'll have on the offensive end,” she said. “It's going to be a big push to get defensive stops, get some steals and rebounds and then, push it the other way. We're going to add some more presses. I have a few offensives in mind, but I am going to kind of let them play and see what works and then build off of that.”
She’s hoping to build the team through scrimmages with other local teams in the preseason.
Nielsen was a student-athlete at her high school in Duchesne, Utah, playing basketball, softball, volleyball and even running track a few seasons. She received a scholarship to play basketball at Colorado Northwestern Community College in Craig, but she stepped in to play softball her freshman season when several players went out with injuries.
She ended her basketball career her sophomore year, being ranked in the top five for her league in assists, rebounds, points, steals and minutes played.
“I had quite a few injuries the last part of my sophomore season. My body was just kind of over at that point, so I decided not to play on anywhere after,” she said. “I miss basketball a lot and would definitely love to play some more.”
Right now, that means challenging the Huskies—not only on the court, but also off.
“I kind of take my own experiences and I know everybody's experience is going to be different, but I know what I've seen, what works or doesn't as far as team communication and team building goes,” Nielsen said. “The main thing I've learned through sports is you have to be a good teammate. You have to be able to work together as a team, you have to be able to communicate, and you have to be able to put those differences aside and work together. We all have one common goal so to get that goal accomplished, we have to all be able to work together.”
She hopes to get the team to gel through “a lot of team bonding activities, a lot of communication activities and really just letting everybody get to know each other on a different level than just being a teammate—and then transitioning that to the court and being able to all work together.”
Part of that also will include holding study halls with the coaches to help provide tutoring on subjects to make sure the student part of student-athlete comes first.
“We’ll be checking all their grades constantly and making sure that everybody is eligible and ready to play when it when it comes to the season,” she said. “We don’t want any distractions; we want them to put academics first and to make sure that quarter really counts and everybody's eligible going in.”
Through her early years of coaching the Huskies, Nielsen said it’s building the relationships with the girls that has been the best part.
“Just getting to know them and who they are, then being able to be there for them, being that person who can get them motivated and wanting to do better,” she said. “Yeah, that's the best part for sure. All the different personalities that come with it can be definitely challenging at times, but I wouldn't have it any other way because they're all their own individuals and it's awesome to kind of see all of that.”